On the med school road

The journey to becoming a doctor requires dedication and commitment to a lifetime of learning.

Doctors play a critical role in both preventative health and chronic and acute disease management. Here we ask three medical students at the University of Melbourne about their academic journey so far, why they want to become doctors and their advice for the future of the health industry.

Sima Riazi, second year student in the Doctor of Medicine (MD)

What has been your best experience as a medical student thus far?

Travelling to Iran and completing my four-week clinical elective. The medicine practised there is evidence based and thus similar to ours, however, the system was so incredibly different. Most doctors were really willing to teach and I had a lot of hands on practice with suturing and plastering.

At the end of your career how would you like your patients to describe you?

A great doctor who cared and was an excellent communicator!

In your opinion what are the biggest health issues facing Australia?

I think Indigenous Australian health, obesity and the ageing population are the biggest health issues in Australia.

How can doctors maximise the health of their patients?

Health is multidimensional and for that reason, it’s really important to get allied health involved so that a patient’s health can be addressed from many different dimensions.

When I am not studying I am…

Spending time with friends and family doing things that I love – fishing, trying to surf, playing tennis, reading books, going to Muay Thai classes, eating blue cheese!

What is it like to study medicine?

Hard – you are constantly reminded that it is important to have a life outside of medicine, but the sheer workload often makes this difficult. You are constantly reminded of how little you know, but there is no end to what you can study in medicine and often it’s difficult to know to what extent you need to know about a topic.

Fun – it’s so interesting to learn about the body and find out why our bodies do what they do and when!

What life lessons have you learnt from studying medicine?

Friends and family are important and time is precious. A respiratory physician once said to me that no matter what happens in medicine, you should never let your friends and family down – and I’ve tried to live by that by being super organised.

If I wasn’t studying medicine I would be…

Working as an economist in a developing country.

How are modern doctors different from doctors who are now at retirement age?

The use of technology has definitely transformed medicine, for example, the ability to take a photo of a patient’s skin lesion and MMS it to a dermatologist to ask their opinion, or Skype psychiatric consultations.

Melissa Lee, final year medical student of the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Medical Science (MBBS, BMed Sc)

Why medicine?

It is a career where you can help others, practise lifelong learning and work in a diversity of specialties and areas.

What has been your best experience as a medical student thus far?

My best experience has been on my rural placements as part of the John Flynn Placement Program – it’s incredible seeing what rural GPs can do! They are very talented and have a wide range of skills.

At the end of your career how would you like your patients to describe you?

Interested in them as patients, a strong advocate for them, hardworking, and up to date with my knowledge, even at the end of my career.

In your opinion what are the biggest health issues facing Australia?

Non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and obesity including childhood obesity will continue to dominate Australia’s health issues list.

What do you think is the future of medicine?

There has been a lot of talk about using a person’s genomics to individualise and maximise treatment and I think this will happen in the future. Along with the ability to grow organs in the lab and use them in people – how cool would that be?

What are your top three health tips for the everyday Australian?

1) Slip, slop, slap

2) Diet and exercise

3) Get enough sleep

What is it like to study medicine?

Medicine is a constant intellectual stimulation with an impossibly large variety of material.

What are some of the biggest challenges studying medicine?

Balancing study and uni with extracurricular activities and personal/social downtime.

How are modern doctors different from doctors who are now at retirement age?

Modern doctors have been trained to be more patient-inclusive in making decisions rather than the traditional paternalistic approach.

Favourite medical TV show?

Grey’s Anatomy (for the drama), House (for the inaccurate medicine), and Scrubs (for a good laugh).

Emma Browne, second year student in the Doctor of Medicine

What area would you like to specialise in? At the moment I’m interested in a number of different areas, including mental health, general practice and obstetrics.

What has been your best experience as a medical student?

The sense of respect that patients give you, even though you’re not a doctor yet. There’s a huge amount of reverence for the medical profession among the general population, and patients are more than willing to help a medical student learn the tricks of the trade any way they can.

At the end of your career how would you like your patients to describe you?

I hope my patients describe me primarily as a doctor who takes the time to truly understand their perspective and empathise with them. Sadly time constraints can make this difficult, but hopefully I can overcome that.

In your opinion what are the biggest health issues facing Australia?

The disparity in healthcare and outcomes between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians, the obesity epidemic and mental health.

What have you learnt studying medicine so far that has surprised you?

I’ve been surprised by how stoic patients can be in the face of serious illness or bad news, and how great older patients are at looking on the bright side.

What do you think is the future of medicine?

I hope in the future we can become more holistic carers, and can incorporate more techniques into our practice from the complementary medicine spectrum (provided they’re evidence-based).

What have you learnt about health that everyone should know?

We need to approach the concept of health from a far broader base so that we don’t miss aspects of mental and emotional wellbeing that can impact greatly on physical health, and vice-versa.What are the biggest challenges of studying medicine?

Appreciating that you can never know everything, and having to study some things or areas that don’t personally interest you.

What life lessons have you learnt from studying medicine?

That ‘being healthy’ is a lot more complex than just eating well and exercising!

The journey to becoming a doctor requires dedication and commitment to a lifetime of learning.

For more information about studying medicine visit medicine.unimelb.edu.au.

Thanks to the University of Melbourne Medical History Museum for allowing us to take photos in their beautiful space.

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