Intercalation is an opportunity available to all medical students at the University of Manchester. The idea behind it is to take a year out of your medical studies to obtain a degree in another academic area in the hope that you’ll come back to your medical degree both refreshed and powered with greater knowledge. A win-win situation all round. James Rosario is coming towards the end of his intercalation year where he has been studying Anatomical Sciences. Below, James discusses his thoughts on intercalation and the advantages of taking a year out from being a medical student.
After hearing about the dreaded jump from third year to fourth for medical students I was always going to intercalate. I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel ready for that jump and liked the idea of doing something completely different for a year. I also saw it as a great opportunity to gain extra points for my foundation doctor application so, on the whole, it seemed like a no-brainer to me.
The decision was made at a very early stage. Others leave it late but I always had it in the back of my mind that I was definitely going to intercalate at some point. Initially, I wanted to do it after my second year but in the end I had to settle for doing it after my third year due to missing the December deadline in second year.
So, with my heart set on intercalating it was time to decide on what I was actually going to study. Anatomical Sciences always seemed the obvious choice to me due to the fact that I was keen to get back in to the dissection room. I really enjoyed the dissection sessions in first and second year and Anatomical Sciences provided me with the perfect route back in to that side of things. It’s also very similar to medicine and thought it would provide me with a lot of transferable skills.
Certain modules such as cardiovascular systems, immunology, and endocrinology are all going to directly help me in medicine as they have taught me the basis behind certain tests that doctors have to do on wards. For example, CRP – we know it’s an inflammatory marker but you don’t really know where it comes from. Just little things like that will hopefully make a huge difference when I go back to clinical placements. It’s also given me a lot of research opportunities which could become useful as a medic, if I end up going down that route in a few years.
However, in other ways, it’s turned out to be totally different to a medical degree. For example in my third year I was in uni for 25 hours, whereas this year my contact time with academics has only been 6 or 7 hours a week. The content on the course is also much more intricate and specific, and this is where my project comes in. I’m trying to find a loop of nerves in the neck called the ansa cervicalis, which has required me to be in the dissection room around 8 hours a week so far. I think these hands on projects are a really interesting and effective way of learning anatomy and something I certainly enjoy!
In addition to this project, there are other elements of the course which I have to incorporate in to my spare time. There are podcasts that we have to listen to and coursework tasks to complete. These tasks usually take the form of small questions which are worth small amounts towards the module to ensure that you are keeping up to date with the lecture material.
It’s also been refreshing to interact and work with non-medics! As a medic you can feel isolated from other students and stuck in your own medic world. But. this year I’ve really valued just being able to study and work with a variety of students. This has also fed in to the non academic side of university. I’ve been able to play Lacrosse again which is a huge bonus on a personal note! Last year I struggled to fit it in to my hectic medical schedule so being able to play again has been fantastic.
For those who are interested in intercalating I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. If the finance side of things concerns you then go to the next intercalation fair day, you’ll receive all the necessary financial information and it will put your mind at ease. The application process is really straightforward and you’ll have one of the best years of your university life!