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Five years ago, I travelled to one of Africa’s poorest countries, and was shocked by the squalor in which the majority of its population existed. Quite by chance, I visited a local medical centre in one of the townships, and became aware of a crying, desperate need, not just for basic medical supplies, but for trained, professional staff – able to respond to the needs of a people facing malnutrition and basic deficiencies in the medicines and levels of care which we in the West take for granted.
I began to understand how I could blend my schoolboy interest in science and scientific enquiry with a medical career, and so I resolved to examine medicine as a career. On my return to the West, I immersed myself in the topic of community medicine, and in particular, the vision of being able to take my skill to the world’s poorest countries.
A great deal of work has to be done in order for me to make the transformation from idealistic enthusiast, to serious, qualified practitioner of medicine. I began to consult with the science staff at my school, informing them of my passion to apply my scientific interests to a medical career. Before long, I was in touch with some of the leading medical research departments at British universities – and have been making numerous enquiries concerning possible places.
But my interests were not just stimulated by what I had seen in the Third World: my research into medicine and its influence for social betterment have caused me to look again at the National Health Service, and how Britain needs to ensure that its trained medical practitioners did not permanently leave the country. My tutors advised me to gain experience within some of the poorer urban communities of Britain before taking the huge step of becoming a practitioner in Africa – perhaps by volunteering for hospice or hospital work.
At present, I am laying the foundation of my career, reading everything I can on the future of medicine. I subscribe to some of the leading journals in this field, and have contacted the United Nations, to find out if, at some stage, I could take part – either as a qualified doctor, or as a volunteer – in one of the UN’s famous world health programmes.
I was encouraged, not just by my immediate colleagues, but by several family friends, whose sons and daughters had just entered the medical profession. During my last summer holiday, I spent time with a newly-qualified doctor – a specialist in community medicine – at his practice in one of the most deprived parts of Britain. I became aware of the day-to-day challenges facing health services – especially the issue of securing the right level of funding and resources.
It was also vital for me to learn the personal techniques of this profession – not purely the scientific side, but the all-important need for the medical practitioner to be able to communicate, and to produce a diagnosis – often under difficult conditions. My time as a volunteer at this clinic provided me with one of the most valuable insights into the real workings of the medical profession, and the huge problems and responsibilities which have to be addressed each day.
So concerned was I with the issue of health funding and training, that I became an active campaigner for community medicine – joining my school debating society and involving myself in local campaigns, one of which collected several thousand signatures demanding greater funding for community health projects. I was selected to take part in a debate at our community centre, finding myself centre-stage with a visiting Government minister – the experience further strengthening my determination to be a passionate public advocate for my intended profession.
I hope to gain a short-term placement in a local hospital, and have already written to the embassies of Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia to discover if the authorities there would welcome a Western student. I feel that I have the personal motivation and – most importantly – the passion which will make me an ideal candidate for the profession, or more correctly the calling, which I know will be my entire life’s work.
In preparation for my career as a medical student, I have begun work on a book about my experiences in Africa. I have already researched such subjects as infant mortality rates, and have compared the figures from Africa and elsewhere with those recorded by Western nations. Recently, I was interviewed by my local newspaper about my work, and I feel sure that the production of a book by a young and idealistic individual will do much to promote the cause of how to end suffering.
I also hope that the manuscript will be warmly regarded by university and specialist medical departments, and that I will soon be able to secure a place.
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