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

Get a personal perspective from Rosie, a current medical student, and Dr Stuart Carney, a UQ academic.

UQ people
Published 30 Sep, 2020  ·  6 minute read

Choosing your future path can be hard, especially when there are so many unknowns out there.

What’s it really like to study medicine? What does a day in the life of a medical student look like? What kind of job can I get with a medical degree? And how will UQ give me the skills I need to face the future, when I don’t know what the future looks like?

Rosie is a current medical student, and Dr Stuart Carney is the Medical Dean. They've teamed up to answer some of your questions and help you decide what’s right for you.

What are some of the coolest jobs UQ medicine graduates are now doing?

Stuart: I think all jobs in medicine are pretty cool. As a psychiatrist, of course I'm somewhat biased and think that graduates practising in psychiatry, looking after people with mental health issues - that's pretty cool. But some of the other jobs that I really admire are the work of our rural generalists caring for people in regional, rural and remote Australia. Other jobs that my friends think are pretty cool are supporting Formula 1 teams or AFL teams, but there's a lot of cool stuff to do in medicine.

What's been the most unexpected thing you've been happy to discover at UQ?

Rosie: I was really excited and surprised to see the diversity of students and the huge amount of international students we have. This makes us really unique and I think it adds a lot to the experience, knowing that both academically and clinically you can travel overseas. Having friends and colleagues and contacts all over the world is something that, as someone that wants to travel and work overseas, is just the best unexpected surprise.

At what stage in the medical program do your students get clinical or hands-on experience?

Stuart: We seek to provide early, meaningful clinical experience for our students from the first year. In the first year as you might expect, it is in a simulated clinical skills type environment, but then from year two our students are on the wards in the hospitals, learning the practice of medicine. By years 3 and 4, it's a fully immersive clinical experience.

What does a day in the life of medical student look like?

Rosie: The wonderful part of a medical degree is that no two days are the same. In the early parts of your degree you spend a lot of time on campus, you could be in the anatomy lab with cadavers, you could be in a physiology practical doing experiments on your peers, you could be in a lecture and you can be practising your clinical skills. In the second part of your degree when you're in the hospitals full time, it's hands-on clinical experience, standing by the bedside all day in surgery.

How do you prepare students for the future when we don't know what the future will look like?

Stuart: I think that's one of the benefits of being in a comprehensive university, like UQ. Whilst we have an eye on preparing you for day one as a clinician, you don't know what's going to happen beyond that and that's really about a thorough foundation in the biomedical sciences, social sciences, and in public health to prepare you for challenges which we don't yet anticipate.

How does the way you learn at UQ prepare you with the skills you need to face an unknown future?

Rosie: The way you learn at UQ, the fact that every different kind of learning covers all of the potential futures that we might be going into. In the medical program, there's the core learning around the history of medicine, around knowing what is currently known. We also learn about research, we learn about technology on the wards and we're trying to predict what could potentially be the future that we're working in, to prepare us for the workforce of the future.

Rosie Stokes

What makes a successful medical student and are they the same things that make a successful doctor?

Stuart: I think there are three things that make a successful medical student and I think they’re pretty much the same things that make for success as a doctor throughout the rest of your career.

I think the first thing is around relationships. The importance of that secure base, friends and family, people who can keep you grounded. The life of a medical student and the life of a doctor is pretty stressful, you're going to be working hard and you need to maintain perspective.

I think one of the other things that makes for a successful medical student and a successful doctor is curiosity. Constantly challenging, asking the awkward questions, don't accept the status quo. Just because my generation did it, doesn't necessarily mean it's the right thing to do.

The third thing and I think this is something we all struggle with, is dealing with uncertainty. Medicine is about reckoning with risk, there are very few yes/no answers in medicine. It's about balancing probabilities and I think dealing with that can be very challenging and confronting as a medical student, and it's something we continue to struggle with throughout our professional lives.

What’s the most interesting thing you've learnt that hasn't been part of your coursework?

Rosie: When I first started becoming interested in medicine I had this one idea of what a doctor would be and where a medical degree can lead you - to be a clinician, the GP that you loved when you were growing up, whatever it might be. But I've been lucky to see the vast diversity in careers that a medical degree can give you. So looking at whether or not I want to be doing public health and policy, or if I want to be looking at the future of technology in health. There as so many different things that I was passionate about and skills that I had growing up, that I didn't necessarily think I would be able to investigate and celebrate in a medical career. I've been excited to find out that being a doctor, or the excitement of being a doctor is only one part of it.

If you could give me one piece of advice that would set me apart as a job candidate, what would it be?

Stuart: I think a key piece of advice is to always be true to yourself and be authentic. I think the people who come across really well at interviews are the individuals who let their true self shine through. If you’re pretending to be somebody else at an interview, and they hire you because they think you're somebody different to who you are, it's going be a pretty difficult job having to act all the time.

What have you learned about yourself since you started your studies at UQ?

Rosie: Something I've learned about myself, is how important it is to really believe in yourself if you're trying something new, to really foster and hold on to self-confidence, to try different things and to stretch yourself. You never know what could happen, you never know where you might go or where you might succeed if you never try.

Own the unknowns in medicine at UQ.

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