What does Erasmus even mean?

Five fifth year students today talked to second years about their experiences on Erasmus programmes all over Europe. The Erasmus happens all over Europe, and the students talking went to a selection of countries.

Approximately twenty people in each year apply for Erasmus, regardless of academic progress. It is ideal if you speak a language to an already high level – i.e. A Level. The students spoke about how the more proficient you were at language beforehand the better time you had. Contrastingly, they mentioned how the medical teaching may not have been as good abroad as it would have been in Wales. However with careful revision and studying when back in the UK, the students didn’t have a problem with the academic side of medicine

Helen Jeckel said, “It was a pleasure to be able to share my experiences with such an enthusiastic group of second years, many of whom are interested in going on elective.”

Freddie Searight added, “I do not know anyone who went on Erasmus who regretted it.”

The balance of both the good points and bad points of Erasmus was highlighted. The financial implications of elective were also illustrated to the year 2s as well as the application process.

To summarise, in the words of fifth year student Mollie Routledge “I’d do it again any time!”

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

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

The Search for Research – the musings of a medic

Boring or brilliant?

Points or pointless?

So how do you go about doing some research? Some people are lucky enough to have done an interesting degree before medicine that included research.

So why not intercalate?

But if these are not your cup of tea why not join the Cardiff University Research Society?

The CUReS website has a list of projects that doctors are currently or are interested in doing.

So if you’re a budding infectious disease consultant with an interest in Schistosomiasis then why not try and do an SSC or project during your spare time to stand out from the crowd?

If you like. Or not.

By Sara Lisa James

Blogging for Beginners – A 7 point plan (I couldn’t think of 10)



  1. Have no experience in blogging or editing.
  2. Sign yourself up to be one of the editors for the Year 2 Year 5 shared conference.
  3. Sit in a room contemplating the best substitute for the word ‘important’ whilst only thinking of the word ‘important’.
  4. Have in depth conversation about the upcoming job offers over a chocolate digestive.
  5. Think of more synonyms for the word ‘therefore’.
  6. Write a ‘witty’ blog about writing blogs.
  7. Have another digestive.

Planning your Elective by Dr Z Dana Huq

Dr Dana Huq courtesy of Yue Guan

Dr Dana Huq courtesy of Yue Guan

Dr Z Dana Huq, a former Cardiff University student now working as an F1 at the Heath hospital, gave an informative talk to the second year medical students about his experience with planning an elective.

He originally planned to go to Sharm el Sheikh for a 5 week elective at the Hyperbaric Medical Centre as he is a keen scuba diver. However, due to the unsettled political status of the country at the time, the elective had to be cancelled and reorganised. After enquiring at several different hospitals across the world and hearing little back, he decided on an elective at Fremantle Hospital in Perth, Australia. He spent 5 weeks there, working in the Hyperbaric and A&E departments and enjoyed his elective immensely. He benefited in particular by gaining experience in hyperbaric medicine which he was thinking of specialising in at the time. However, he found the A&E specialty and the clinical experience he gained from working in a fast paced environment to be more appealing to him and his future career decision. He gained experience in suturing, nerve blocks and night shifts in a foreign healthcare system and recommended Australia highly as a place for great clinical experiences as well as leisure opportunities.

Dr Dana Huq advised on the practicalities of organising electives from selecting the country to booking flights. His take home messages were to have back up options if elective plans fall through, investigate hidden costs, especially if travelling to first world countries such as Australia and America and to start planning early.

By Katie Field

Electives: to work or to play?

I will be honest, when I first heard about having these elective seminars I was a little perplexed, thinking it premature. However, after having the fifth year students and a recent Cardiff graduate explain I am already excited for mine… even if it is a while off, let alone several (i.e. many, many) exams away.

So, to the question posed: to work or to play? Or even an equal measure of both, which seems to be the usual option after chatting with the fifth year students; some of whom will presently be jetting off to all manner of places: Samoa, Sri Lanka, Australia, and even Bridgend.

I say Bridgend as the shock revelation was that one’s elective need not be on a beach with a surfboard within close reach. Instead others decide to push the scales more in favour of the “work” side. With electives taking place in some research hubs, and a lab-coat rather than wetsuit being the clothing of choice.

The “work” side not being entirely lab-bound, on the contrary it would appear that students bound for some destinations, especially African ones, are to be getting “stuck in”. With one story being that some students could well end up being in charge of a ward. Naturally as a second-year student the idea sent my eyebrows somewhere up into the stratosphere. The prospect of being in charge of a ward in a few years being far more terrifying than the dreaded 9am lecture.

Naturally other students decided to nudge their scales more towards the “play” side. With one’s elective being the last chance to let one’s hair down before being plunged into the behemoth that is the NHS, it would make sense to enjoy that last opportunity. After half-a-decade of intense study, demanding placements and all the other rigmarole that comes with being a medical student it was emphasized to choose an elective that is enjoyable. Of course that will vary from student to student, some thinking that a few months in a lab is heaven, and others recoiling at the mere utterance of such an idea.

And then there is the typical idea of an elective: the third option, the balancing of the scales so that “work” and “fun” can both be crammed in together. After all I rather think a pair of shades and a stethoscope rather complement one another.

By Ben Schroeder (2nd year Medical student)

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

“My elective and what it did for me” by Dr Z Dana Huq

Dr Dana Huq courtesy of Yue Guan

Dr Dana Huq courtesy of Yue Guan

Dr Z Dana Huq is an FY1 at the University Hospital of Wales and a Cardiff University graduate. He kindly agreed to share the experience of his elective as a final year medical student. In order to make the most of this unique opportunity, he advised choosing an elective based on something you enjoy. Dr Huq had an interest in scuba diving and travel, so originally chose to do a 5-week elective in hyperbaric medicine in The Hyperbaric Medical Centre in Sharm el Sheikh. However, due to the unsettled political status of the country at the time, Dr Huq had to cancel and reorganise his elective, which he chose to do in Fremantle Hospital, Australia.

In planning this elective, there were a number of expenses to consider, including vaccinations, visas, administration fees and a medical, on top of accommodation and flights. Therefore, it’s extremely important to take cost into consideration. Moreover, as Dr Huq discovered, your planned elective may be cancelled or changed at the last minute and so being flexible is essential.

Although costly, there are many benefits of going on an elective overseas. Dr Huq had the opportunity to experience a new healthcare service, perform procedures that would not have been possible in the UK and travel. After all, an elective is more than just medicine; it is an opportunity to travel the world and meet new people – so above all else, enjoy yourself!

By Sophie Rees and Katie Field