From a young age I’ve always loved learning about the human body and working with others. So, when the time came to decide what A-Levels I wanted to study and what career path I potentially wanted to follow, studying biology and a career in medicine really appealed to me. Not to mention the fact that, I was obsessed with watching Junior Doctors on BBC and the thought of wearing scrubs and a stethoscope one day was so exciting! However, I didn’t realise how difficult the process would be for me, especially as a BAME student…
After deciding that I wanted to study medicine, I knew that taking part in some work experience would be beneficial as it would help me gain a better understanding of the NHS system and what the role of a doctor was. It was at this point where I faced my biggest problem; not having any healthcare professionals in my family and not knowing anyone in the healthcare system (other than my local GP) which made it quite difficult for me to find work experience and I was searching for quite a while. What did help was when a current medical student directed me towards the website, I could use to apply for work experience in my local hospital. After a year of bombarding the hospital with tons of requests I managed to get a week’s work experience at the Haematology ward at my local hospital. Even though having shadowing or specific work experience placements aren’t necessary to apply, they really give you a great insight into what the profession is like, and my advice to those of you who maybe stuck in the same boat as me is to speak as many people as you can regarding a work experience placement. Ring or write letters to GP clinics or hospitals in your local area because one of them is bound to say yes, and if you can try to get in touch with medical students, who I’m sure would love to help and advise you about how they got their work experience and what you can do to get some too!
Something else that I struggled with was not knowing how to apply to university itself. As a first-generation student applying to university, just the thought of UCAS and having to write a personal statement was frightening and daunting. However, I found that I managed to overcome this hurdle by joining my college’s aspiring medics club, which I was very fortunate to have access to, but I also did loads of research online which really helped me form a solid personal statement by the time the October deadline came around!
As you can see, some of the main struggles of being a BAME student and applying to competitive course such as Medicine, is not having a lot of guidance and support. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard stories from other BAME students about hearing remarks such as ‘Oh you’re aiming a bit high aren’t you’ from teachers and peers after telling them they want to study Medicine. I know the feeling of hearing such things myself. It’s belittling and unmotivating – but what matters is what you do after hearing this. Personally, I’ve learnt to motivate myself and not focus on what other says, especially if they want to put you down. Your dream is your dream and it is perfectly accessible if you put the hard work, effort and time in.
As the community of BAME students applying to competitive course such as Medicine grows, so does the help and support offered by universities and other students. I know that many universities now offer access programmes to people form BAME backgrounds in order to widen participation in their university. However, there is still a lot left to be done.
One thing that really helps is for not only BAME students studying Medicine, but all students in competitive courses to offer support and advice to those applying because like Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”. I hope this article has helped you realise what it’s like for a BAME student to apply to Medicine and I hope any of the advice I have given makes a difference!
This great piece was wrote by Hana Farman and reviewed before publish.