Category Archives: Day Two

Grasp every opportunity but don’t spread yourself too thinly….

from Wikipedia (

(from Wikipedia)

A key message about thriving & surviving: grasp every opportunity presented to you during medical school. Really throw yourself into it both academically and outside of work. It’s good to get involved in, to meet people and gain experience. It will boost your confidence and skills, without a shadow of a doubt.

It’s important to do things that you enjoy outside of medicine too, there is always time – it’s not healthy nor productive to work all the time.

Medicine is a challenging career and requires a lot of hard work, but it helps to compartmentalise topics, plan ahead and prioritise your time carefully.

Key mottos:

  • “medicine is a marathon, not a sprint”,
  • “failing to plan is planning to fail”
  • “don’t spread yourself too thinly”.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, medicine is very demanding – focus on yourself. Don’t try too hard to meet others expectations – everyone works differently and you will find your own niche.

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Erasmus – an incredible experience abroad!

Fifth year studentFlag_of_Spain.svgs ran a fascinating workshop for 2nd year students, who were interested in an Erasmus placement. The 5th year students, who’d spend 3 months each in Paris, Nantes and Madrid, enthusiastically shared their stories and anecdotes.

The main message of the workshop was that an Erasmus placement is a fantastic opportunity and a great deal of fun! The passion and enthusiasm from the students came across strongly when they talking about their experiences, which hopefully inspired the younger students to apply for Erasmus.

They discussed the differences in doing a placement abroad, and said you often get poorer clinical experiences compared to Wales. They felt you spent more time observing than doing, although stressed this is not a reason to rule out Erasmus. You may need to work a bit harder when you return to Wales, but they all passed their exams and feel it was worth it!

Another difficulty they all shared was poor organisation and lack of information about their placements. They believed this could be overcome by getting some advice from previous Erasmus students, and happily shared their contact details for anyone wanting further advice.

Some 2nd year students asked advice on how to cope with the different languages. One of the 5th year students had only done a language up to GCSE, whilst another had previously work in the country so it was interesting hearing the different experiences. They shared tips about how to improve your language skills before going and reassured the younger students they’ll quickly pick up the language whilst out there.

Although some of the draw backs of Erasmus were discussed, the clear message of the session was Erasmus is an incredible experience and highly recommended.

Rhian Thomas, 5th Year Medical Student

Is Clinical Academia for You?

Although medical academia seems an interesting field to work in, I’ve always thought it weird for people to spend many years training to be a clinician, just to choose later in life not to work in a predominantly clinical environment. Therefore, I was eager to hear why Dr. Menna Clatworthy chose to be a clinical academic.

Dr. Clatworthy explained how she finds her work incredibly interesting and varied, she also said that there is a possibility of making a discovery that could leave a lasting legacy in the world of medicine. She explained how her academic success at medical school and doing an intercalated year led to her interest in academia.

A very balanced outlook of her career was given and Dr. Clatworthy stated one of the major cons of clinical academia was not only the pressure to get published, but to get published in a ‘good’ journal, that had a great impact.

What are the characteristics of a prospective academic? Well according to Dr. Clatworthy…

“You should quite like thinking about things… if you want immediate gratification, stick to clinical medicine”

“You should be someone who likes to persevere at things”

“You should be someone who is able to juggle many things”

I’m still unsure that medical academia is for me, but Dr. Clatworthy did highlight some interesting points and changed my previous beliefs about that career path.


“Keep calm and relax” – reporting on a T&S session….

This sharing session was quite cool. I still can remember wondering how am I going to survive the whole 5 years course? Worry, nervous, stress, all came at once to me at that time.

Some of the experience and tips shared by the fifth years:

  • Be yourself, try not to compare yourself to others
  • Know your own style of learning
  • Keep really good friends with you, when you stress out, you can chill with them
  • Ideally, have some non-medics friends
  • Don’t aim to far…one by one, aim for simple things that you can achieve
  • Be smart during placement. Know what you want to learn that day.

The participation from 2nd year students was impressive, and the session was really interactive. If there some more sharing session like this from the junior doctors I’ll definitely sign up for it.

Coverage provided by Tuan Tuan Zainal

Workshop Day: Highs and Lows

The day started with an inspirational talk by former Cardiff student, Dr Menna Clatworthy. She talked about why she went down the academic route and how rewarding a career in clinical medicine is.

So filled with enthusiasm I went off to my first workshop: Getting Involved in Research.
Expecting to be informed of how Cardiff University is able to help me get involved in the cutting edge of science, I left disappointed after a five minute talk. Neither of the speakers had attempted any research at Cardiff University or had thought to prepare anything for the talk.

Fortunately all hope was not lost.

The second workshop, ‘Thriving and Surviving’ was much more beneficial. The 5th Year Students had prepared a short presentation on what to do to keep sane and enjoy yourself whilst doing well. They spoke of how in 3rd Year we can create our own SSC and this is a good way to explore a research area that you would like to get involved in. This restored my enthusiasm from Dr Menna’s talk in the morning.

Overall, today’s conference experience had it’s highs and lows. I am definitely going to start thinking about areas of research I would like to get involved in and what tutors would be able to help me.

Samuel Willis

How do FPAS points work?

Lots of you have been asking about how foundation year applications work so here is a little bit of information on the scoring system. Foundation year is a fair few years away for us year twos , and so it’s not worth panicking and losing sleep over, but it’s always worth developing your CV and experience early and having a little think about what you can do to prepare for job applications well and set yourself up as a great candidate…

Applications will have a maximum score of 100 points and this will consist of two components:

  1. Educational Performance Measure (EPM)    50 points maximum
  2. Situation Judgement Test (SJT)   50 points maximum


Educational Performance Measure

The EPM acts as a measure of clinical and non-clinical skills, knowledge and performance up to the point of application. The EPM comprises two elements:

  • Medical school performance in deciles (up to 34-43 points)

If you are in the first decile (the top 10% of your year), you will receive a score of 43; if you are in the second decile your score will be 42; the third decile 41 and so on. Students in the tenth decile will be awarded 34 points. 

  • Educational achievements, (up to 7 points)

Additional degrees (up to 5 points)  – PHD = 5 points, Masters/ 1st = 4 points , 2:1 = 3 points, 2:2 = 2 points, 3rd = 1 point, Medical degree alone = 0 points.

Publications worth up to two points (1 per pub med ID)


Situational Judgement Test

The SJT is a measure of meeting the attributes required to be a foundation doctor.

The SJT is taken under invigilated conditions, and  there is no negative marking, and you should therefore attempt all questions.

It consists of 70 questions in 2 hours 20 minutes

A maximum of 50 points is available

There are two question formats:

  • Rank in order five possible responses (2/3rds of the paper)
  • Choose three from eight possible responses (1/3rd of the paper)

A maximum of 20 marks is available for each question


For any additional information have a look at:

Intercalation: Myth-busting Q&A

Three 5th Year students who have previously intercalated provided some straight answers to common intercalation questions.

Here are a few of the hottest topics of discussion…

Q: How difficult is it to reintegrate into the medical course after your intercalation year?

A: “Not at all! Coming back to medicine was a dream, I suddenly loved clinics…at least for a while.”

Q: What it was like to join the 3rd year of a biosciences course? Was it hard to hit the ground running?

A: “You’re a little behind on some of the background but there’s nothing that didn’t come together in the first few weeks”

Q: How much does your ranking matter?

A: “Very little. If you want to intercalate then apply: there’s nothing to lose and you don’t have to have a tip-top ranking to have a good chance of getting your first choice. Just go for it!”

Q: Is it a chilled year?

A: “It depends what you do, my year was half and half: very relaxed until January exams. Then dissertation started looming and the library became my second home. But there is always the long summer to look forward to! However, be sure to choose something that is of interest to you. No amount of time off later can cheer you through a dissertation that doesn’t remotely float your boat!”

Maia Tanner

Joys and Pitfalls of Academic Medicine – Dr Meena Clatworthy

I haven’t seen a lecture theatre packed this much since my first day of medical school.

Dr Meena Clatworthy commands the lecture theatre with an air of confidence, telling the students she will talk to them about the joys, and potential pitfalls, of academic medicine.

Dr Meena Clatworthy

Dr. Clatworthy, a Cardiff graduate, is an honorary consultant nephrologist. She went on to cross the Severn Bridge to follow her academic desires, ending up at Cambridge, becoming an academic in transplantation medicine.

The aim of her talk today is to inspire medical students to take up exciting roles in medical research.

She intently goes on to explain to students, that academic medicine is not for everyone, but those who enjoy a challenge, and the satisfaction of changing things in a big way. If you wish for instant results, then clinical medicine might be more for you. Giving someone some antibiotics and a few days later they’re better. Academic medicine looks at the longer term picture. Understanding the disease itself, and looking at how it works, and possibly going on to make a finding that could change medicine forever. She uses the term ‘legacy’ multiple times, and this really is something that Dr. Clatworthy is creating, and today is instilling the thought into these year 2 students.

They too, could become someone who leaves behind a lasting, world-changing legacy.

If that wasn’t exciting enough there are many chances to travel with academic medicine and Dr. Clatworthy herself has recently returned from Seattle. Dr Clatworthy has also written two textbooks – Nephrology : Clinical Cases Uncovered and Transplantation at a Glance

You can feel the engagement in the room, with the frenzied excitement of young minds racing towards untold possibilities. But we are promised a balanced view and Dr Clatworthy goes on to explain that it’s not all as perfect as we may have initially thought.

An amusing video explains the frustrations of not being published by the journals they wish. After all, as Dr. Clatworthy explains, getting published has varying degrees of impact. And when you’re an academic (particularly at Cambridge), getting into world leading journals is essential. And it can be very frustrating when that doesn’t happen. And of course the long hours, the finances to run research, pressures to publish and fund your lab and staff.

And it turns out that salaries are typically lower as an academic than as a consultant working for the NHS. I notice a few students shaking their heads in despair…

But Dr. Clatworthy picks up the crowd and drives on. There are still many minds who are daring to dream of their possibilities in the world of research. She goes on to explain how to go into a career in research, but importantly gives useful tips on how to start working towards it now:

  1. Say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity.
  2. Build your CV early
  3. Work in a field that interests you.

We come to the end of the talk, with students inspired, and daring to dream.

Marek Parkola and Callum Priest

A fly on the wall in research!

Sitting at the back of the MGLT- acting as a fly on the wall for the research session.

Initially the year 5 pair described their own experiences of research including the triufly_on_the_wall_by_kenjis9965-d2z3ogsmphs and blunders they had encountered throughout their studies. The overall advice from the final year medics was to be creative yet organised take an active interest in their specific field. Although luck was emphasized as a key element in research, building up a portfolio of contacts was illustrated to be just as important.

The session was very ‘user-friendly’ and accessible to the target audience. The pair catered for their younger colleagues and their views were specifically moulded to the new course that the year 2s were undertaking. The audience in question were both polite and engaging with the session.



I took 5 minutes at the end of the session to interview several groups of year 2 students and enquire about their experience so far.

The majority of students stated that the Year 5 small group sessions had been particulary helpful; although most topics covered were beyond their year of training. However it was still beneficial to become aware of upcoming challenges.

Students commented that they felt ill prepared for these sessions; they did not know what to expect.  Students commented that if they had been given a timetable or a little information about what the week would entail, then they could have made some questions and benefitted more from the experience.

As an additional comment, several year 2s stated that they would have liked more hand-outs provided or slides because they felt overwhelmed with the vast amount of information.

Students said that for the elective workshop in particular they would have appreciated a more varied selection of elective experiences – those taken within the UK and abroad. The second years were concerned about how they would find a balance between the educational purposes of elective and the inevitable holiday that an elective would provide.

By Grace McKay

Enthusiastic about Erasmus


Flag_of_France.svgSo you may have heard stories of people heading off to random places across the globe to ‘study,’ and thought ‘that sounds cool!’ You have the opportunity to be that person!

Erasmus opened my eyes to new experiences, new healthcare systems, new challenges, and most of all a new culture and a new language.

Cardiff University provides excellent opportunities to study in various locations across Europe through their Erasmus programmes. I grasped this once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy living in Paris for 3 months. I undertook five weeks placement in obs and gynae, and five weeks in the paediatric department in a hospital in central Paris.

What were my worries about Erasmus?

  • Language; spending 10 weeks in a French hospital, being taught in French and conducting consultations in French may come across as quite daunting…and it was! Having barely spoken any French for almost 4 years and suddenly being totally immersed in the language and culture was a very intimidating experience. However, I would urge anyone considering undertaking an Erasmus to not allow the language barrier to stop them. It was terrifying at first, but after the first few days I soon became comfortable in the environment and my language skills rapidly started to evolve. The best way to learn and improve upon a language is to throw yourself in at the deep end.
  • Learning how to adapt to a new healthcare system; I was worried about how much clinical experience and teaching I would get in France. Yes, the system was different, but essentially patients still have similar problems. The hospitals are also very keen at giving you hands on experience, which resulted in me delivering a French baby all by myself, as well as conducting some consultations by myself before relaying to a senior doctor. Anything any of us felt we missed out on in teaching on placement was made up for when we returned to Cardiff, and we probably overcompensated, meaning we ended up with more clinical experience than the medical students who stayed in Wales. This may seem intimidating, but we got to experience the beauty and romance of Paris whilst studying. Lunch-breaks by the Seine with a baguette and cheese really can’t be beaten!

What did I gain from my Erasmus experience?

  • I vastly improved my spoken and written language skills beyond anything I’d ever achieved when learning in school.
  • I got a chance to travel and immerse myself in French culture, and learn more about myself and what I want from life.
  • I experienced a different healthcare system and broadened my horizons regarding our NHS, its positives and also things that we can learn from healthcare in other countries.
  • I improved my confidence in many ways, including conducting consultations and communication with patients, and directing myself around new cities in a different language.
  • I made many new friends, and had the time of my life with them!

If you’re worried about whether your French isn’t good enough, or whether you might miss out educationally then put these fears to one side, because I was worried about these things too, but you will be fine! This is an amazing opportunity…don’t miss out! You’ll regret not going for this someday…

Matthew Haslett