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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.



The four students had intercalated in a variety of subjects: pharmacology, psychology and statistics, giving several different perspectives.

Initially the focus was on the pros:

Through undertaking an intercalated degree students can gain valuable new skills and enjoy a subject they are genuinely interested in. Students can also gain confidence in interpreting and analysing research papers, something that we have minimal exposure to in medical school but are expected to do throughout our medical careers. Furthermore research projects provide opportunities for students to get work published and present research at conferences.

Followed by cons:

Many students find their intercalating to be the most challenging year at medical school and the written exams can be extremely tough. The workload can be heavy – completing a research project, module coursework and summer exams.

Intercalating adds another year of study to an already long course. The talk covered the integration into the new year group and return to a medical degree after a year away. Whilst intercalating may be off putting due to moving years most students do not find this to be a problem and integrate well with a new year. Losing clinical knowledge can also be a worry to students, however, most of them found the transition back into clinical medicine to be fairly easy.

They all found intercalating to be a great experience and would highly recommend it. However, it is not for everyone and researching the degrees thoroughly before choosing is essential.

Sarah Lynch and Anon

The Elective – Sun or Stethoscope?

It is coming to an end. The end of a 5 year rollercoaster. Half a decade psun-over-the-oceanacked with in depth human science followed by nerve wracking exams. Placement has taken me to each corner of Wales from a GP surgery in Holyhead on Anglesey to a paediatric placement in the Valleys. All that is left is an 8 week gap in which to fit one of the biggest life experiences anywhere around the world; my elective. The equation however was not simple for me. Talk about organising elective with my best friends for months and not getting anywhere. Ask your friends in the year above where they went and each person had ‘the best 2 months of my life’. Doing your elective in the back of a lorry could’ve been made to sound like nirvana. Beach or City? South America or Australia? The decisions are tough.

Slowly a plan comes together. An elective plan is organised mixing a range of different themes. Whether you are on A&E or psychiatry, you know that it’s going to be a different experience wherever you are. Each individual knows what they want to get out of their elective. For me an elective needs to give you time to experience a new culture. One could argue that you have the next 30 years to amalgamate medical knowledge but only 4 nights to learn the customs of a Mayan tribe. Others argue that they want to expand on their portfolio and remove gall bladders all over the US gaining pride that their medical knowledge is useful all around the globe. There is no right or wrong balance; like everything in medicine. Each elective plan can be glanced at and each student’s personality instantly evaluated. What do you personally want out of an elective?

The younger years can be forgiven for their confusion about what an elective should be like. My 19 year old self was confused about what gastroenterology even was, let alone about where I should go and what I should do on an 8 week elective. What you want out of this period will become clearer as the years go on. Cardiff Medical School I believe has moulded my personality over the last few years and made me realise just what I want in life. Whatever you do should be enjoyed and every single thing you should learn from. Helping starving children, surfing on the biggest waves in the world, performing CPR on a collapsed man on a mountain in Nepal. Sun or stethoscope, don’t be afraid to do what you want to do.

By Nishil Patel

Perspective on Elective

With Cardiff’s year 5 students just days away from going on their medical elective,  now is the perfect time for them to share advice with those that have an elective to forward to. A room full of Year 2 students turned up to hear what three year 5 students had to say.

Charlotte Orr will be travelling to Tanzania very soon. Having not done much travelling herself it was a big decision to go to a developing country and she was able to inspire the year 2’s to think about making the same bold move.

Tanzanian experience;

  • First language is Swahili
  • Little electricity
  • No running water
  • Peak malaria season
  • Busy!
  • Cooked for over coal fire

Next up was Sophia Thompson who will be going to Sri Lanka.  Using the Electives Network website she found a hospital that did electives and that was also close to the beach! Sophia was an example of a student who was using people who lived local to the hospital to stay with- a great way to save money!

Our final year 5 student came with lots of tips for our year 2’s;

  • Stay with friends or family abroad
  • Plan early,  particularly if you want to go to Canada or America
  • Start saving as bursaries are hard to get and are of little value
  • Some locations will require Visas
  • There’s no shame in staying in the UK

A tip that all three students gave was to try and organise as much of your elective independently as you can!  This is because although organisations do most of the planning for you it comes at a high price!!

Hannah Cranch – Final Year Student

Exciting Elective Workshop

Successful elective workshop with the 2nd years, lots of interesting questions and an opportunity for us to discuss our exciting elective plans, the world is your oyster!! Talk of New Zealand, The Solomon Islands, Sweden, Nepal and Rhyl. Every placement will have something to offer.
Key advice from our discussion:
  • Get the map out early!
  • Think about finances and where money is going to come from
  • Have a back up plan!
  • Chat to older students
  • Looking at the MDU’s free The Elective Network website
  • Ask any doctor you meet on placement – every one has had an elective!


Rachael Parker – Final Year Student

Thoughts on the keynote speakers

So I just went to the first lecture from the keynote speakers Prof Phil Smith and Dr Tom Hughes and while I was expecting to learn all their secrets for why and how they do what they do, I was actually thrown into a morale debate with myself. Am I on the right path to becoming a successful consultant like them? Am I on the path to failure as Dr Hughes said he once was? What path am I on? So maybe failure is not all bad, I mean look where it got him. He failed his second year and he is now a consultant in a big fancy hospital. The dilemmas that ran through my mind were uncountable but when Dr Hughes said he failed I was comforted to know that it’s not the end of the world, so long as you get up and bounce back.

There was a lot of talk in the lecture about what it is to be an actual doctor and while the normal things came up like being kind and knowledgeable and wise, I was particularly struck by Prof Smith when he said “You have to walk the talk”. A slightly different saying to the more commonly known “Walk the walk” but good advice all the same. Being a doctor is about being a role model, to patients and to people out and about, who may not know you are a doctor but will see you doing good deeds and be inspired to do the same.

In the wise words of Prof Smith “Doctors should be seen taking the stairs…they should stop and pick up litter when they see it…and they should eat little bits of fruit and such.” Wiser words I have never heard. Eat little bits of fruit. So simple.

Prof Smith strikes me as the kind of man who gets his respect without demanding it. With such tall stature it’s hard not to see why, any man who has to duck when he enters the lecture theatre must be worth listening to. When he talks I’m reminded of the top of British society having high tea not the local Cardiff scene watching the rugby and talking about how the English shouldn’t have won last weeks game. Maybe it’s his loud assertive voice and slightly posh accent but it somehow draws my attention and I imagine the attention of the majority of the lecture theatre, well those not glued to their phone screens. I do have a little laugh at his more conservative views of the hospital, with his depictions of there always being a man at the top of that steep sided authority pyramid he loves and I couldn’t help but scoff a laugh when the girl sat next to me described his comment as “horrifically sexist”. I thought it was rather funny.

Talek Nightingale