Medical Schools’ Best Kept Secret

10710662_10203018346840922_1261285847953338841_nSarah Laurie, 3rd-year medic, reflects on her personal experiences of mental health education and support. 

Mental health problems amongst medical students are common – this should come as no surprise. Amidst 100 highly intelligent members of the general public, one would expect to find approximately 20 with a mental illness. And yet, I am willing to bet that for every student who has ‘gone public’ about having a mental health condition, there are a handful who are struggling alone.

The mental health education in my school was shockingly poor and misinformed. After 14 years of compulsory PSHE lessons learning about things like periods, smoking, and abstinence, I cannot recall a single lesson in which obsessive-compulsive disorder was properly explained to me. During our teenage years, we have to balance a heavy workload and simultaneously navigate the emotional minefield of sexuality, health, goals, and aspirations – it is no wonder that 50% of mental illnesses manifest by the age of 14 [1]. So why does the government see no reason to educate us on the matter? If somebody told me that panic attacks weren’t normal reactions to sitting my GCSEs, or that sobbing into a mirror for hours at a time wasn’t just “being a teenage girl”, I may not have had to spend the majority of my teenage years struggling with mental illness.

Continue reading “Medical Schools’ Best Kept Secret”


Work Hard, Work Harder

10420241_1531768717068311_7208292879445469926_nThird year, Heather Kirkland, investigates the feasibility of working a part-time job while studying for a medical degree and reflects on her personal experiences.



I speak from experience when I say it’s tough to have a job during term time. I also speak from experience when I talk about how expensive it is to live in St Andrews. I am lucky enough to have the help of my parents to fund me, and the government paying my fees – woohoo Scotland! However, I really do feel for anyone who just can’t make ends meet without working part-time while studying medicine.

stress-7Last semester I worked in a bar and I frequently wouldn’t finish until 3 or 4 am. Towards exam time it was just unbearable: I was stressed, tired and, if you ask my flat mates, extremely grumpy. I was lucky enough to still pass my exams, even if the grade did drop as a consequence. I just don’t know how others are able to work, study, pass exams, have a social life and not bite anyone’s head off!

My brain was never fully in either game. I found myself thinking about my upcoming shift in lectures and about stuff I should be revising while pulling pints. It was also so hard to sell cigars and cigarettes to customers without rhyming off the potential damage they were doing to their health. Continue reading “Work Hard, Work Harder”

Androcentric Medicine and the Curse of the Hybrid Beast

Areej Abdel-fattah, third year, looks at the issue of gender blindness in medicine.482605_10151449872582569_171966315_n




L'Inconnue de la Seine
L’Inconnue de la Seine

The moment you realise Rescusci-Anne was, in actuality, Rescusci-man all along, is an eye-opening one. Like a creature you might face in the Underworld, it is a hybrid beast, with the torso of a man and the hauntingly beautiful face of the ‘Inconnue’, a French woman who drowned in the Seine (Grange, 2013). This hybridisation of a female identity and a male body causes a lot of confusion, as one is led to expect the same rules to apply to females as males for any one condition. My point is, at this point in time, I would not be confident performing Basic Life Support on a female simply because I have never practised CPR on a female mannequin. And as this could potentially affect approximately half of society, I feel this matter needs to be addressed urgently.

I had difficulties telling the gender of our cadaver in second year – in the following dialogue with a group member, I tried to pick out differentiating features:

Me: Is this a male or female cadaver? I think it’s male because it has short hair… But maybe they shaved its head post-mortem…

Group member: it’s male.

Me: How do you know? Ahh! It’s flat-chested and has narrow hips, I get it.

Group member: Or, you could just look there *nods head towards genital region*”

This anecdote, which has proved a most entertaining one at family gatherings and had others in stitches at my expense, actually made me realise how non-gender-discriminative medicine can be. However, in my defence, things aren’t always as they seem, as illustrated by Dr Tello in what I thought was the most gender-identity-related-doubt-inducing lecture.

Continue reading “Androcentric Medicine and the Curse of the Hybrid Beast”

The Medical Reality of an Ageing Population

WSelfieith the UK’s ageing population increasing and greatly impacting the field of medicine, Anahita Sharma, 2nd year, shares her personal experiences of working with the elderly.

Whilst all individuals in this article are anonymous in order to respect their confidentiality, these are real people and were real incidents. Thank you to Ha Phuong Do Le and fellow care staff for sharing their invaluable thoughts and advice.

The Beginning

There is nothing quite like a wintry, Scottish morning. It was a few minutes past 8 a.m. as I trudged through a field laden with grimy snow. The sunshine was pale, the world was quiet, and buildings were dark silhouettes against a blue sky. My mood oscillated between empty, drained and low. I drifted into my room… and hid under the duvet, seeking solitude, silence, and sleep, in the darkness.

Screenshot 2014-07-31 21.15.25

The above is (an abridged version of) a text I sent a friend after that memorable first night shift, one year ago at a geriatric home, as a ‘care assistant’. I came onto the shift at 8 p.m. the previous night, rather bushy-tailed, wearing a freshly ironed shirt. Twelve hours later, I was sleep-deprived, but more importantly, in turmoil over whether I had made a foolish commitment – in fear that I would do a terrible job.

Continue reading “The Medical Reality of an Ageing Population”

A Week in Poland

pic a

At the end of July, three British medical students set off for Poland, looking forward to a week at a student camp for Polish medical and allied health professional students. Sally (a third year who studies in Liverpool), David (a first year from Brighton) and myself (a second year) spent a week in the lovely little village of Uniejów, famous for its thermal springs.

The camp was organised by the Polish branch of the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF), and was open to students at any stage – we had students from all five years, every one of us keen to expand and consolidate our existing knowledge and skills. There were three UK students, one from Germany and about twelve Polish students, as well as six Polish doctors (two of whom currently practice in England), so we were spoilt for attention and contact time! All of the Polish people were friendly and welcoming, and really made an effort to get to know us and make sure we were happy. The amount of English spoken by the local students varied, but they all made a really good effort to speak English so we could understand – and they even taught us a few Polish phrases! The medical training was conducted in Polish, but we were extremely grateful for one of the doctors who translated for us, so we didn’t miss out on anything. Over the week, we had five full days of medical training, Bible talks and free time for exploring and activities. Continue reading “A Week in Poland”

Sterility for $ale


Cash-for-sterilisation. It’s an idea that took me a while to get my head around, despite the fact that it really is as simple as it sounds. Established in 1997 by Barbara Harris, Project Prevention tours States and cities across America (recently expanding overseas), touting one simple message: “Don’t let a pregnancy ruin your drug habit”(1).

So far, the organisation has sterilised or given long- term contraception to over 4000 individuals, the vast majority of which are women, in exchange for $300 US dollars2. Their advertising campaign is far from glamorous; volunteers hand out flyers to unsuspecting individuals in areas notorious for poverty and drug use, stick notices in AA/NA groups and travel the country in a large bus bearing their unapologetic posters with the number 1-888-30-CRACK, urging any fertile individual suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction to get in touch (3). Continue reading “Sterility for $ale”

Finding Humour in Medicine

Screenshot 2014-07-31 18.30.22

Second year David Grosset Considers whether there is a place for humour in medicine, and finds himself pondering the strangely inspirational story of Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams, as well as America’s wackiest X-ray competition, and a smoking chimpanzee

“Our job,” the lecturer begins, “is to rigorously and ruthlessly train the humanity out of you, and make you into something better – doctors.”

The lecture theatre erupts with applause, the budding medical students eminently impressed by these words of wisdom. That is, except one man. Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams refrains from clapping because he believes there is more to medicine than memorising the branches of the thoracic aorta. He believes that through improving a patient’s quality of life via the medium of humour, he can significantly enhance their wellbeing. And that would make him a better doctor. And he was right. At least according to the 1998 film, Patch Adams, he was (if you have a spare 90 minutes it’s worth checking out, but let’s be honest, you probably don’t have that spare 90 minutes because ironically, you’re too busy memorizing the branches of the thoracic aorta).

Continue reading “Finding Humour in Medicine”