Pathway to Medicine

Four students from the Class of 2020 were accepted into Medicine and are now studying together at Monash University. Head of Careers and Partnerships, Ms Joanna Buckley interviews Anoushka Baruah (’20), Rebecca Evans (’20) and Caitlin Eccleston (’20) about their chosen career and the steps involved to enter Medicine.

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Q: What drew you to Medicine?

 

Anoushka: Affinity: As someone who loves science, medicine has always been on my radar, but I realised medical school would be a good fit for me because it not only integrates scientific strategy and problem-solving, but the humanities too, where you can learn your patient’s story, and through your abilities, try to advocate for them.
Family illness: In late 2018 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. My family had a moment of realisation about the precious and fleeting nature of life, and as such, how vital its preservation is. I understood that being able to help a sick a person through knowledge and skills is an ideal filled with such compassion and love for humanity itself. Medicine seemed like a no-brainer.
Family influence: My background promotes the study of medicine… aka, every time I went to India my grandparents would ask me if I was interested in pursuing Medicine.

Rebecca: There were a multitude of factors that drew me to Medicine.
There is no doubt it can be such a rewarding career that grants you the privilege to assist people from all walks of life, and the dynamic nature of a career in Medicine exposes you to new things every day. I also have an interest in global health and was therefore interested to learn about why there are such disparities in global access to healthcare. From a scientific perspective, I have always been fascinated by human biology and the Medicine course really encourages and supports this curiosity.

Caitlin: I wanted to be of use to the wider community and thought that pursuing Medicine was a sure way to do so. There has definitely been influence from my medically based parents, but I knew I had to choose it for my own reasons as well. I thought it was a perfect combination of science and interactions with people — I enjoy the idea of working with
teams of health professionals as well as the patient to come up with the best treatment plan for them. For me it is about having faith in yourself and your team that you can make a difference, compassion for your patients and their loved ones, and dedication to improve the health outcomes for people the community to the best of our ability.

Q: How did you find the selection process, and balancing that with Year 12?

Rebecca: The selection process was quite long and strenuous, with preparation for the UCAT beginning early in the year. Sometimes it was hard to stay motivated, particularly during the many lockdowns we faced throughout the year. I found it helpful to treat UCAT preparation as if it were a ‘sixth subject’ and created specific study blocks in my timetable to hold me accountable. This made the balance between Year 12 and the selection process much easier. Throughout the year I certainly struggled with lack of confidence, especially after I received a UCAT score that I did not believe was ‘good enough’ to get into the course. It was at times difficult to break out of this mindset, but I decided to view the end of year exams as a second chance and to stop ruminating on things that were out of my control.

Anoushka: Entry into medicine is a three-part process for most universities in Australia: the UCAT, the ATAR and the interview. For some universities, like Monash, these three components are weighted equally to decide whether you are granted a place or not. That is to say, the entire years’ worth of stamina and perseverance poured into doing well in VCE was equally important to the UCAT (so I crammed in the two months leading up to my test) leaving me just a week to prepare for the interview. In other words, I don’t think I balanced these three tasks equally!

Caitlin: Being honest, I often got overwhelmed and nervous that my scores would not be sufficient — making sure you have a good support system and have recreational outlets was important to seeing myself through that final year. Looking back, I realised that minus the hype and stress constantly associated with what is the most mysterious and daunting
year of school, the VCE is much more an opportunity than anything else.

Q: What advice would you give to current students considering applying?

Rebecca: Do not compare your abilities to those of others. It can be so easy to feel lost or overwhelmed during the application process; just remember there is a reason why you started in the first place. Work hard throughout the year, do not let your feelings of self-doubt take hold, and know that doing your best is all anyone can ever ask of you.

Caitlin: I would advise current students to look through and choose a medical school entry program that best suits them and start working away early. There is no need to spend hours each day focused on the UCAT and interview prep, just do a little bit of work each day. The most important thing is to have is faith in yourself – while it is a challenge, it is achievable. You may not have everything figured out, but just getting stuck into some work and noticing where your weaknesses are is better than getting stressed and losing focus entirely.

Anoushka: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Have hope – one ‘bad’ score does not exclude you from getting an interview to Medicine. If you do poorly in the UCAT but exceptionally well in the ATAR, or vice versa, things may still work out.

Q: How are you finding the course so far?

Anoushka: Fabulous but hard. Now I am here, the struggle is more in keeping up with my work rather than excelling at it. There is a heap of content to get through weekly, and still, we are doing a mix of online and on-campus learning. What is so fortunate though, is the incredibly beautiful people we get to meet in the course. Friendly faces and some of the best people I have ever met in my life. It has been wonderful.

Rebecca: I am loving the course so far. The content has been really interesting, and we have already had the opportunity to learn some clinical skills, such as the all-important method for proper hand hygiene! The course covers such a diverse range of material from medical law, pharmacology and global health to biochemistry and anatomy so there is always something new to be immersed in.

Caitlin: I am really enjoying the course. Despite restrictions due to COVID-19, I have been able to have fun in my classes and get to know some of the great people in my cohort. Of course, the workload alone may seem undesirable, but combined with the great community here and the future as a health professional that awaits, I can say Medicine is a great choice of study.

 

TIPS FOR YEAR 12 STUDENTS


From Head of Careers and Partnerships,
Ms Joanna Buckley

1 GET TO KNOW YOU

Before considering your career, ask key questions: Where do my natural abilities lie? What makes time pass quickly for me? What is important to me? It’s one thing to future-proof yourself, but you also have to find a job you will intrinsically enjoy. While you might have your mindset on a path, without thorough exploration you might not be aware of other options – including newly-emerged occupations – that could be a great fit for you.

2 USE OTHERS AS A RESOURCE

Consider advice from those who know you. Career counsellors also give a sounding board and use activities such as guest speakers and reflection exercises to help identify your path. Ultimately, though, it’s your decision.

3 FOCUS ON INDUSTRY TRENDS

Be aware of growth opportunities, salary and conditions, while still balancing this carefully against what will make you happy.

4 IT’S A LEAP OF FAITH

Without a crystal ball, all you can ask of yourself is to make the best decision for you, for now, and put trust in where that will take you. It’s okay to have little idea of where you want to end up in your career journey. Choosing a tertiary course is only a first step and one that starts, but doesn’t have to determine your life’s trajectory.

5 THINK TRANSFERABLE SKILLS

If time reveals you need to change direction, you will still have knowledge and skills you can take with you into your next pursuit. With any career path you choose, be prepared to reinvent yourself and upskill if necessary through further study or experiences.