Destination story - Beth

Medical Student Beth was one of the UTC’s first students in 2013; today she’s completing her medical degree at Queen Mary, University of London. She looks back fondly on her time at the UTC, and tells us why joining the school was the catalyst for things to come…

‘It had a great atmosphere,’ says Beth, as soon as you ask her about her UTC experience. ‘It wasn’t about “what grades have you got?”, it was more about “what can we do for you? What do you want to do?” The UTC surrounded me with people with similar interests. They had career ideas I’d never heard of.

‘It wasn’t just the staff, but all the students around you,’ she says. ‘The teaching staff were so enthusiastic and the UTC’s approach was different. I liked doing 9-5, in a more adult environment, and being treated more like an adult.’

Beth was a top performing student at her previous school and was interested in science before she identified a career in medicine as her ambition. ‘It was a UTC teacher, in career guidance, who persuaded me to take a look at medicine and set me up with a placement,’ she says. ‘I shadowed a junior doctor at Fazakerley Hospital in Liverpool – as opposed to senior staff – and it completely changed my perspective. I worked with someone who wasn’t that much older than me, and suddenly I could see how I could become a doctor. I saw what her job entailed, just after leaving uni. I’d see her pocket book, where she’d check she’d asked all the right questions, and the collaborative environment she worked in with nursing staff. It all clicked into place – I thought “I can do this. It’s achievable.”

Beth went on to complete work experience at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and RedX Pharma in Macclesfield. ‘I’m still in touch with one of the surgeons at the Royal Liverpool,’ she says. ‘It’s surreal having a surgeon check in with me on Facebook to see how I’m getting on. But it’s really encouraged me. At St Andrews I was part of the widening participation scheme, helping students with their personal statements and talking to students who might not have that opportunity otherwise about the benefits of medicine.’

‘Time in an adult environment gave me so much that I can apply to anything – I still don’t know anyone else who had an opportunity like that. I did it over Easter, with some extra time away from school, and the UTC was so supportive in helping me fit it around studying.’

When she talks to prospective new students, she tells them to make the most of their opportunities. ‘If you’re offered something, just do it,’ she says, smiling. ‘I was offered a month’s work experience and worried about how I’d catch up. But it really made the difference for me, and the UTC was really supportive. If you’re interested in something, give it a go. You’ll grow up a lot faster, and there are so many more opportunities. You’ll be able to make a really balanced decision about what you want to do…’

The former UTC student graduated from St Andrews in summer 2018 at the end of her BSc, before moving to Queen Mary, where she’s finished her first year of clinical studies. A year of general medical rotation has seen her take on placements in Bart’s and the Royal London – the biggest hospital in western Europe – alongside some small district general hospitals, experiencing a variety of different working environments. ‘They cover both some of the richest areas in London, and also the 1% most deprived area of the country. It’s a chance to work with such a variety of people and living in a tower block in east London has been very different. But you only get a chance to be a young person living in London once!

‘It’s nice to go from lecture-based learning to actually doing what you want to be doing,’ she says. ‘Next year I start medical specialisms, like haematology and gynae, and eventually, I’d like to either work in oncology or palliative care. I worked on a research project at St Andrew’s on oncology and palliative care, which was really eye-opening. This year I presented at Bart’s clinical day on a chemo regimen and will do another dissertation next year – and I’d like to get some more research under my belt. Back in Edinburgh I was working on a paper with some consultants and hopefully it’ll get published – we don’t know yet…’

After her final year, Beth will have to choose where to spend her F1 year, as she becomes a Foundation Doctor. ‘It’s a chance to do what you want to do,’ she says.

‘I might come back to Liverpool – it would be nice to go back and work in the hospitals I went to at 16!’