FBMH Stories: Esther Aiyelaagbe

As part of our #FBMHStories feature for Instagram, we chatted to Esther, a fourth year medical student. She explains why she wants to be a doctor, and how she works hard to understand new topics…

How did you feel on your first day at Uni?

Funnily enough I can’t clearly remember my first day at uni. I take that to mean it didn’t go horribly wrong! What I do remember is that we had lots of welcome lectures and there were many of us there so it was quite reassuring that there were many people in my shoes.

Why did you want to study Medicine, and why at Manchester?

I’ve been interested in medicine for a long time. I found it fascinating that doctors can deduce what’s wrong with a patient from a few symptoms and also decide what investigations and treatment they need, so I wanted to find out how they were able to do that.

I chose Manchester mainly because I have an good support network here in friends and family, so I didn’t have to go far to be home. The Manchester Medical School and University itself are very prestigious so I was happy to study here.

What do you think of your lifestyle here?

I think Manchester is a nice midpoint between London-esque and a small town-esque type of lifestyle. It’s just the right pace for me. Manchester has a wide range of things to do so there’s something for everyone.

If you want fast-paced things, there are opportunities for that. If you like quirky things and shops, we have lots of cafes and shops in the Northern Quarter that are good for that. I personally am a bit of an introvert so I don’t go out much, but when I do I have a great time. There are loads of restaurants and bars which are really good.

Have you picked up any hobbies or interests?

I picked up an interest in swimming and started doing lessons. I also joined a medic society called ‘Medics in Primary Schools’. We go into primary schools to teach the students basic science, to do some hands on skills such as CPR, but more importantly to inspire the kids that they can do anything they set their minds to. The kids loved it and it was fun to be with them!

What’s the most challenging thing about medicine so far?

My year-out doing a Masters was very challenging; I learnt a lot during the year. Towards the end of the course I had to write a dissertation. I hadn’t finished it when I resumed medical school, so for a week I was juggling both. For someone who might be in this position in future, I would advise you to establish a timeline with your supervisor early on and try to work to the timeline. Don’t underestimate how much time it takes to do your writing, and allow ample time for feedback from supervisors.

Another challenging experience was having a bad experience in an OSCE (clinical exam). It was my hardest semester, when I was in preclinicals.  I had spent a lot of time going to the dissection room to revise neuroanatomy and thought I finally had a good grip on it. When I got to the exam, I could not seem to remember any of my neuroanatomy. I failed a station as I knew I would, but I passed the exam overall. So although it was difficult, I got through it.

What has been the most rewarding?

The most rewarding experience has been following a pregnant woman through her labour journey. I assisted the midwife looking after her. The new parents were very grateful for my help. It was an opportunity to see how things can become very serious very quickly in medicine.

Do you think you’ve grown as a person?

I have definitely grown as a person over the years in medical school. I have learnt to manage my time better, to prioritise and identify things that need to be done, and take responsibility for my own learning. I think the greatest lesson I’ve learnt is that your progress in university is largely down to you – it becomes what you make it.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is about to start their medicine degree, what would it be?

Medical school is great but remember that if you struggle sometimes, that’s okay! Everyone struggles now and again so don’t be afraid to ask for help. I remember when I was doing neurology in Semester 3, I found it really difficult. There was a particular concept about signals in the eyes which I just could not get my head round and I found that really frustrating. I asked one of my friends who understood it well to explain to me. I eventually got it, and realised if it’s just that one thing I don’t understand, that doesn’t make me a bad student. It was important to weigh the relevance of that piece of information against my knowledge of medicine as a whole.

With one year to go, what do you want to do after you’ve graduated?

Chill! Chill and chill again before I start work in August. On a more serious note, I’m quite interested in psychiatry so perhaps I’ll pursue a career in psychiatry. I’m not 100% sure that’s what I want to do but it’s definitely on the cards!

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