Thursday, 18 August 2011


Today seems like a good day to write a catch up post, with A level results released. Firstly, I hope people got what they wanted. If you did, congrats! You have so much to look forward to. Secondly, I apologise for the amount of time between posts. I will now have to change the title of my blog though!

I have been intercalating this year, as I said before, and have finished a degree in Immunology with a first. Better than I thought I would do, but no complaints! I didn't think that this year was going to be interesting for most people, so didn't write about it. I had several terms of lectures on the immune system / autoimmunity and infective agents, and a lab based research project from which to write my dissertation. The lectures were standard learning-by-rote that I am more than used to from medicine now, and unfortunately boring compared to the fun I was having clinically last year. The best parts was cutting-edge information, such as using a Rituxilup regime for Lupus, based around Rituximab but without the use of steroids, and the possible benefits. Very interesting seeing information being researched, and how it might affect what doctors (or I!) prescribe in the future.

The lab based project was the exciting part, working on Streptococcus, and the feeling before getting the result to an experiment that no-one knows the answer to is very exciting. If I am kicked out of medicine due to malpractice (fingers crossed not), then I definitely wouldn't shy away from a career in research. The idea of working in clinical research for my future career though, probably not. I found the pure clinical side even more exciting than being in a lab, and more rewarding!

Having finished the entire year intercalating (summed up in a very short time) I now move onto my 5th year, which is my 4th year back at my old medical school, as it offers a 5 year programme as standard. Looking forward to getting back into the clinical side, in my old hospital, with all my old friends. Before that, though, I have something much more exciting to look forward to:

My Elective

This is something I have been looking forward to since the start of medical school, and is when I get to practice medicine in a different setting. most people go abroad for this, and it practically means you can do anything medical, anywhere in the world. As I may have mentioned before, I had been toying with many ideas, such as

  • A river trip down the Amazon, serving the tribes living there (But I speak no Spanish); 
  • Flying doctors in Africa, where they run clinics under the wings of their aircraft, after rural villages clear landing strips for them in the forest ( They would rather take 60kg of drugs than 60kg of medical student)
  • Trauma hospital in South Africa, where I could get hands on experience with stabbings and shootings (But I felt that this was something I could get in England anyway)
  • Somewhere very rural with little staff and little resources (Who am I, Ray Mears?)

I finally decided on the last bullet point (after much deliberation, after all, when you can choose anywhere in the world, just choosing one seems very wasteful). Some were not possible, such as working with the flying doctors in Africa - but once I am qualified I will actually be of use to these organisations and I have many plans! While all of my choices were a little 'out there' this does not have to be the case. Many of my friends went for options in the Bahamas, or in Australia. Probably much less demanding, and it does take place over part of your summer holiday, but I wanted an experience of a life time. Perhaps, in a few months time, I will regret my choice, but I doubt it.

The hospital I contacted, and will be working at, is in Tanzania. In case you do not know where Tanzania is, here is a wonderful map:

The hospital has no running water, no grid electricity and few drugs and diagnostic tests. I have been told they have electricity for an hour a day, for operations, from an expensive generator. This should provide the different experience I have been looking for! I have organised to take over £3000 worth of drugs with a charity called IHPUK, and should this be successful (I hope so, have them sitting in my room at the moment in two massive boxes) then the hospital will have lots of drugs to play with.

The bonus of going somewhere so simple is that there are few staff, so I will actually be useful, and the lack of treatments and diagnostic tests means that it is (possibly) harder to go wrong. I can imagine the downside is that a lot more will rely on diagnosis from examination and history, and there will be deaths.

I am not sure how I will cope with either of these, but am leaving in a few weeks. I will write a daily blog over there and will upload them day by day on my return. Without grid electricity, I will obviously not be able to upload blogs there, so I have taken a solar charger so I can write, which should stop me from forgetting things!

In summary: Sorry for being away for so long, but its better than I bore you all to death with lectures. Now comes the exciting part, the elective, which I am really looking forward to. Hopefully it will make a good read as well...