The beginning stages of

I say this a lot but I got into medical school for wont of anything better to do.

I blame Gilly Carson. Me and Ricky Mayes spent a day with himin A&E when we were 16 and I remember sitting in the foyer of Craigavon Hospital with Mayesie and the pair of us were talking

“so do you fancy doing medicine?”

“aye why not, seems fun…”

That was 12 years ago. Mayesie is driving endoscopes around the large bowels of the population of East Belfast and cutting out the tumours he finds.

And I’m trying my best to kill as few as possible in the same hospital I worked as a cleaner in for 4 years.

Seems fun.

The selection process for medical school was the UCAS form. That was it. Not even an interview. I had no human contact to get into medical school.

I spent 5 years in medical school having an awful lot of fun, playing a lot of footy and guitar and doing precious little study. I didn’t attend a full week after the first one. I never got a mark above average. No one ever told me that wasn’t really good enough.

I now consume medicine like oxygen and spend an awful lot of time studying and reading and learning all the things I should have learnt in medical school.

I now know really quite a bit (though never enough) and believe that I am above average in how I do my job.

That I actually ended up in a job I like was – like I suggested at the beginning – more by chance than design.

Which brings me eventually to something resembling a point.

This week’s BMJ carries an article on selection for med. school. The UK recently introduced an aptitude test (the UKCAT) to assess people for being doctors – you need a certain score to go in.

So some very smart people looked at how this has impacted on who gets in to medical school.

Bottom line – it still selects white, middle class, smart kids. The only difference being it seems to be a bit better at picking out cognitive ability than A-levels.

The accompanying editorial concludes that there is still a gap when it comes to

information on the non-cognitive characteristics and personal qualities that are fundamentally essential in the generic good doctor

Who you are – your personality, your disposition, your interpersonal skills are a huge part of what you do as a doctor. We have been, and still are in danger of breeding generations of doctors who have the brains (or at least the ability to get the right scores) but couldn’t talk their way out of a paper bag.

Every now and again I give a patient to many (or just the right amount) drugs and they mention as they leave what a nice doctor I am. I always respond with the question – would they like a nice doctor or a good one?

I think we deserve both, i’m just not sure how to pick them out yet.

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March 2010
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