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What's it really like to study medicine at Sydney?

16 May 2019
Helpful insights from current students about the MD program
So, you’re interested in studying the Doctor of Medicine, but you want the inside scoop on the course before you hit apply? We spoke with two third-year students to give you the low down.

Meet Shelley She, a 24-year-old student who completed a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) at the University of Sydney before commencing the Doctor of Medicine.

Shelley She, third-year medical student in the Sydney program.

What’s a day in the life of a medical student like?

As a student in third year, we spend most of our time in clinical practice on different rotations with a variety of teams. For example, I’m currently working in orthopedic surgery. At the moment I attend ward rounds with the orthopedics team, spend time on the wards doing jobs like inserting cannulas, or taking patient histories, and then scrub in to theatres to assist with joint replacements or fractures and learn about the procedures firsthand.

Lunch involves attending the surgical masterclass of the day – a series of interactive and really engaging sessions taught by surgeons at the clinical school. Some days also involve going to multidisciplinary meetings with allied health professionals to discuss patient management, attending clinics for patients, or going in to emergency to see new patients that have come in with an acute issue like a fracture. Also, one day a week is scheduled around tutorials or lectures. It’s constantly changing and there’s so many new things to learn every day.

Have you received any mentoring throughout your time here, if so tell us about it?

As part of the MD project – a research project conducted as part of the degree, I was paired with a supervisor who has been a fantastic mentor over the years. While completing the MD project is challenging, I was supported to learn new skills throughout the whole process, from devising the project, to solving problems around data collection and manuscript writing.

It has also been inspirational to be able to connect with doctors from different hospitals in the latter stages of my degree and understand how they collaborate to produce meaningful research that can alter patient’s lives.

Throughout the program what buildings and facilities have you worked and studied in?

On campus, lectures are often held in the Abercrombie Building – a fancy new facility, or the Charles Perkins Centre (CPC) Auditorium.

Throughout years one and two, I frequently studied and had meetings in the Quarter – a space exclusively for postgraduate students near the CPC, without the distraction of loud undergraduates. Here there are many computers and lockers available.

Hands down however, the Anderson Stuart Building – where our anatomy practicals were held, is my favourite. What better place to learn anatomy than in the most gothic and hauntingly beautiful building on campus?

What are the clinical schools like?

Being a part of a clinical school feels like being a part of a very supportive community, especially as you become a very tight-knit, smaller cohort. While every term you do in third and fourth years is different, (particularly the GP term where you are attached to urban or rural GP clinics rather than a hospital), the majority of the time is spent with a team based at hospital. You will have the opportunity to be on wards, in meetings, clinics and theatres.

Have you got to know a lot of people in your cohort?

Some of my closest friends are from my cohort. There are so many opportunities to mingle with other medicine students in particular, not just through social events, but as they become your closest allies, when you need help learning the brachial plexus for the practical, or someone to practice the shoulder exam on, or you’re revising ECGs for the tenth time for the upcoming exam. In the clinical years, it is great to share experiences about the attachments you’re on or to give advice on how to make the most of each attachment. The shared experiences you have, as well as the many social events to celebrate each milestone, are the best lifelong bonding experiences.

Aspasia Manos, third-year medical student of the Sydney program.

 

Meet Aspasia, a 29-year-old international student from Canada. She’s currently based at Central Clinical School in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. She completed her undergraduate degree with a double major in biology and psychology and a minor in biochemistry. After completing her study, she went on to work in Health Policy and Management Consulting before deciding to move to Australia to do the MD at the University of Sydney.

What’s a day in the life of a Sydney medical student like?

As a stage three student, you spend every day in hospital (with a few tutorials sprinkled in between). This gives you an opportunity to understand how the healthcare system operates first hand, and the role that we will play in a multidisciplinary environment upon graduation.

Each day is quite different, and really depends on how much you put in to it. Generally, you will spend some time “rounding” with your team and seeing patients in the ward, and then you have a few options about whether you would like to help out with jobs on the floor, attend clinic, observe (and sometimes assist) procedures or surgery! It demands a lot of discipline and initiative to make the most out of the experience, but in turn can be very rewarding.

How has this changed as you progress through your degree?

The first two years of the program are quite different from year three and four. Initially its very lecture based to build a strong foundational knowledge in medicine, although there is also a great balance with practical/lab and clinical days. The clinical day sets you up very well to understand the basics of clinical medicine. The lectures and labs help you to develop the broad strokes of disease pathophysiology, epidemiology and pharmacology, to name a few.

The clinical experience in year three and four are more focused on diagnosis, management and treatment of disease, in addition to building patient rapport. The way I learn and engage with the degree has changed quite a bit as a result of this shift in teaching style.   

What are the teaching and academic staff like?

The academic staff are experts in their fields, and many of them are very passionate about teaching. We are privileged to be learning from some of the brightest minds in Australia. Lecture-style teaching is complemented by bedside teaching in the clinical school. The clinical teaching staff are very welcoming, informative, and engaging. It is clear they are proud to teach and want to help medical students advance their knowledge beyond textbooks to specific patient cases.

What’s your favourite part about the Sydney Medical Program?

I love the teaching in the anatomy program. It’s some of the best calibre teaching I have ever experienced, and it is delivered by very passionate and supportive staff. The didactical teaching is complemented by practical elements which allow us to learn in a more hands-on style.

The resources are terrific, the delivery is structured, and the engagement with the staff in the department is inspirational, to say the least. Having had very limited anatomy experience before beginning medical school, I can confidently say that I am proud about how much I have learned, and it is a testament to the efforts of the department.

What social opportunities have you had while studying?

The Sydney University Medical Society (SUMS) hosts several signature social experiences throughout the year including Medcamp, Medball, Half-way Grad Ball, the Lambie Dew Oration and the Marie Bashir address. I have attended all of these and had a great time.

There are also plenty of sporting events with opportunities to compete against other faculties and other medical schools. The clinical schools also host plenty of social gatherings that are not limited to only those at the school.

Likewise, there are plenty of clubs that are a part of SUMS which have their own social and academic programs. These clubs have special interests in specific areas or subspecialties within medicine such as global health, maternal health, children’s health, surgery, rural health, critical care, and general practice.

SUMS is also a member of the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) and they host very large-scale events like conferences where you can meet medical students all across the country in some of the largest venues and most inspiring academic programs. Honestly, if you take advantage of all the opportunities in medical school, you’ll never get bored.

Do you have one standout memory from your experience at Sydney so far?

Medcamp would probably have to be a standout memory for me. I loved it so much that I’ve gone three times. It is one of SUMS premier events of the year, and it is held over a weekend within the first couple weeks of starting medical school. It is entirely organised by students, for students.

It’s a great weekend to help you adjust to medical school life, meet lifelong friends, and have a good boogie!

 

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