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Life as a medical student: Second year

vicky hargest medical pre-medical student“After a summer spent both working and relaxing I was looking forward to starting the second year of the course and catching up with friend,” says Vicky Hargest, entering the second year of her medical degree.

The format for this year is very similar to last year as it also aims to provide the scientific knowledge we need before beginning clinical placements. Once again the academic year is divided into modules, but this time it includes a six-week research project.

Four systems in eight weeks!

The first eight-week module covered renal (the kidneys), reproduction, skin and the endocrine system which is to do with hormones. An allocation of just two weeks per topic may give the impression that this is an uncomplicated module, however I soon learnt otherwise.

Understanding renal is all about grasping how the tubes in the kidney work. Osmosis, where a fluid travels across thin layers of tissue called membranes is particularly important and thankfully my pre-med year prepared me well.

Reproduction on the other hand was not as complicated (once the menstrual cycle had been mastered) and was incredibly fascinating. Disruption of this body system whether caused by cancer, sexually transmitted infections or hormone malfunction can ultimately lead to infertility.

Seeing real patients!

After one particularly inspiring lecture I asked the consultant gynaecologist if I could spend an afternoon shadowing in his clinic. Here I saw patients with anything from severe, chronic pelvic pain often caused by endometriosis to a patient who lacked sex hormones as a result of a pituitary tumour.

I was fortunate enough to see physical examinations taking place, but what was most poignant was hearing patients discuss the impact on their lives and their options for having children.

Understanding the body better

Now that I have completed the endocrine section I have a much better understanding of how the body maintains control of all other systems.

Understanding negative feedback loops is an absolute must. Malfunction of one of the endocrine organs or the hormone pathway can have profound clinical consequences such as diabetes, infertility and obesity which are all major public health concerns.

The final part of this module is about to begin and while it is entitled ‘skin’, the lecture outlines suggests that the focus is on infections and immunology. Not a subject to be taken lightly.

I have found this module both interesting and challenging and the time spend in clinic has reminded me of why I am doing this course.

About Vicky

Vicky Hargest is a medical student at the University of Sheffield. Although she has an arts degree (health studies) she has taken the pre-med route (six year course) in order to learn foundation sciences.

She is the first in her family to enter higher education - proving that medicine is for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Having worked in medical education for the last six years she is now seeing things from the other side of the fence.

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