The Twists and Turns to Graduate Medicine
An Interview with Hazel Brunton by Georgia Thompson.
Hazel Brunton graduated from Molecular Medicine in 2019 and is now entering her
second year of Medicine in the University of Limerick. Like many others, she struggled with the process of finding what to do after college. In fact, even after making the decision to peruse a medical degree, the process of actually being admitted was not clear cut. Perhaps one of the reasons is the stigma that sometimes follows graduate medical programs. This leads to med school applications being a covert affair. Hopefully Hazel’s words of wisdom can help you on your way, because no one should have to go it alone!
The prospect of the looming jobs hunt is alarming to many students, even before fourth
year hits. Following the Scholarship Exams in second year, Hazel decided that the academic path (PhD) was not for her. Despite really enjoying General Science and then Molecular Medicine starting third year, she was after a more applied profession. Hazel found the university of Limerick program through a friend who was thinking of pursuing medicine. She says it was very difficult to figure out a plan of action, even with the idea of med school already in her head. There are several students every year who continue on to medicine after graduating from science degrees, though it is rarely discussed or presented as a career option. The trouble is, with several different deadlines throughout the process, Hazel stressed that you need to be planning ahead. She found it comforting to know what her plan was at the start of fourth year even if she was not yet sharing it with her classmates. For Hazel, it wasn’t just the job that appealed but also the structured path towards a career. Graduating from college can feel like a jump into the abyss, but starting med school, she appreciated having a clear path laid out and a career she was excited about in front of her. Information for how to proceed once she had decided she wanted to do graduate medicine was patchy. A friend told her she should sit the GAMSAT in the March of third year. In talking to others, she picked up more information, some talked about how you need to get a 2.1 in addition to your GAMSAT score and apply for the CAO on time in January. Ringing the admissions office in RCSI gave her a little bit more information, but Hazel says it’s really important to remember that the deadlines on the different medical schools’ websites are often just the deadline for that program. You still need to have sat the GAMSAT and have already registered with the CAO to proceed. It’s very common for people to take a year out to study and apply for a medical program after finishing their undergraduate degree depending on when they decide they’d like to apply. Having gone through the process having to figure everything out on her own, there’s a couple of considerations and tips Hazel offered:
GAMSAT scores are valid for 2 years, so Hazel strongly advises anyone hoping to start medical school straight after graduation to take the exam in third year and save themselves the stress of studying for it in fourth year. Unless of course, they might wish to take a gap year before continuing studies. In that case, she says it’s important to know ahead of time because once accepted to a medical program, you are not able to defer your acceptance.
Remember to register for you GAMSAT on time, whether you’re taking it in the autumn or the spring, so you don’t end up paying unnecessary late fees.
Be sure to register for the CAO on time in January.
If you are still in first or second year and wish to pursue a medical degree after you graduate, you may want to tailor your moderatorship choice to that pathway. Hazel says Molecular Medicine prepared her well for some aspects of medicine, but she’s noticed some who are particularly well prepared are those who studied Physiology (or outside the General Science track – Human Health and Disease and Physiotherapy).
When it comes to submitting your final transcript as a part of your application, be sure to get the transcript from the Science Course Office which will list your degree as having been awarded after you’ve passed your exams. The copy from academic registry will not say such until your actual graduation, which caused a moment of panic for Hazel that she hopes others can avoid!
Study for all parts of the GAMSAT(even section 3 – The Sciences)and make sure you know what types of questions are included in each section. The more prepared you are, the calmer you can feel going into it.
A year in, Hazel is enthusiastic about her course, though she says there is an adjustment
period – It’s like you’re back in first year again – you don’t know anyone, you’re in a new place, you miss your friends. But, Hazel adds, this is likely to happen with whatever step you take after college. The UL Graduate Med program is a four-year course with 150 students. The program started in 2007 and has a strong focus on small group problem-based learning. Each week a new topic is in focus with cases presented that require outside research and presentation to the group as you work through the material. They are also given group lectures on topics, but that is kept to one day a week. Most of the work is done in small groups of 8. The one specific thing that Hazel notes took a lot of getting used to was the presentation aspect. In most Trinity Science courses, presentations are few and far between, a far cry from the daily contributions expected in her current course. She says it is a bit challenging to sit back down to the books straight after graduating. Especially with all the varied paths her friends have taken since college, but for Hazel, she knows it’s exactly what she wants. Where the hard work will lead her makes it all worth it.