Monthly Archives: March 2015

Beating Death

At Priestley College, there is a class called the Graduate for academically gifted pupils to attend. In one week of the Graduate we were asked to write a short article to do with a profession we would be interested in or a university Course. The article I wrote was there for linked to medicine and I chose to write about the applications of stem cells and the benefits and draw backs of using them. Here is the final article:

Beating death

By Dom Crawley-(Former Penketh High School)

Speculation as to the age a human can live, is never ending and many recent developments in clinical sciences may prolong death for future generations. However is it actually possible to overcome death completely? Stem Cell research is a very controversial topic and many people have their opinions on the ethical and moral dilemmas it produces, however in the future is it possible that stem cells could lead to immortality.

A Stem Cell is an undifferentiated cell that can develop into more cells of the same type or differentiated cells with different functions. Many of the organ systems which allow more diverse life to develop, are extremely complicated and it’s not feasible for a single cell to be responsible for every process. Therefore, cells differentiate or specialize. The process of cell differentiation leads to the development of muscle cells, brain cells, lining cells and red blood cells.

There are two types of stem cells. Adult Stem Cells are partially committed to a differentiated cell and therefore can only develop into that cell. For example adult stem cells found in muscles will only develop into muscle cells. However there are also embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are advantageous in that they can develop into numerous other cells. This means that a single cell could be used to treat any number of conditions including baldness, muscular dystrophy, a myocardial infarction, rheumatoid arthritis, or crohn’s disease. Also, it is believed that advancements in embryonic stem cell research would likely improve our knowledge of Cancerous tissues and how tumours develop improving our ability to treat it. Embryonic Stem Cells are very similar molecularly and show similar functional characteristics to Cancerous Stem Cells. Stem Cells offer a solution to unwanted pregnancies and embryos developed in fertility clinics. Often couples may only want one child but several embryos are produced to increase the chances of producing a viable embryo. However this often leads to multiple embryos being left unwanted. These can either be destroyed, donated to other couples, put into storage or donated to science. Many people cannot afford to store the embryos, do not want another couple to raise their offspring and do not wish to destroy the embryo. However most fertility clinics do not offer couples the option to donate their offspring to Science which most of them would like to. The embryo has been produced and destroying it is a waist. Therefore many people view donating embryos as the most ethical choice.

One of the disadvantages to embryonic stem cells is the way they are obtained. Usually harvesting embryonic stem cells involves the destruction of human embryos which means it’s very unpopular with the demographic who believe life starts with conception and abortion of any kind whether for scientific advancements or not is wrong.  Another disadvantage of embryonic stem cells is that our current understanding of them is very limited and the cells can divide uncontrollably leading to the formation of cancerous tissue.

Theoretically speaking however, they could elongate lifetimes by considerable lengths. The most common causes of death amongst those over 65, include Heart Disease, Cerebrovascular Disease and Alzheimers. Most of the natural causes of death for this age group are caused by reduced organ function or degeneration of the immune system leading to the individual being more susceptible to common colds, and other common bacterial or viral infections. Embryonic Stem Cells could differentiate to form cardiac muscle reducing risk of a myocardium and myocardial infarctions. They could also differentiate to form different white blood cells reducing immune system degeneration. Improved understanding into the structure of embryonic stem cells would also improve our ability to treat cancer which is another condition very prevalent in the over 65 demographic. Stem Cell development could ultimately reduce all of these diseases and conditions from occurring thus increasing life expectancy and one day leading to immortality.

Easter Update

There are several things I would quickly like to talk about that have had recently or I feel it would be valuable to share. Firstly, lots of the people I’ve talked to; from attending medlink and people at the UCAS convention really stress how vital it is to be committed to the medical profession and studying.  Up until now, I don’t believe I’ve demonstrated my commitment and would like to start by talking about my swimming Career

Up until the age of 15, I swam for the Warriors of Warrington, and I swam competitively for upwards of 7 years. Swimming was something that I really enjoyed but to develop and continue to progress, commitment was absolutely vital. I use to train 6 times a week including 4 early mornings sessions and 1 land training session. Waking up at 4:30 Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings not only heavily impedes trying to have a social life, but is also very exhausting and takes a lot of commitment. I trained like this for about 4 years whilst in the development programme with the Warriors. Swimming is a very challenging sport and in my opinion, mirrors many of the obstacles faced by doctors; long arduous hours, little recognition for the work you put in and having to overcome difficult situations very frequently. I swam in competitions all around the country and won many medals over this time period. Eventually I left the sport because the lack of progress and my times not improving was very demoralising especially after months of hard preparation.

Another thing I wanted to mentioned that this week my college held elections for the College Council. Each candidate gave a speech 1 minute in length and then it was for others to vote. Thankfully, I was elected to the college Council and will begin work with the Council next September when the current council leaves for University. At the moment we are shadowing the current Council and learning what roles are available. I am thinking of putting my self forward for the Education Coordinator or the Equality and Diversity Coordinator because I believe both of these positions will be very interesting. Last Thursday, I and some other members of the Council took part in a litter pick with Warrington borough Councillor for Latchford West, Maureen McLaughlin, some other members of the Warrington council and local people in the area. I am looking forward to other tasks as part of the council and all the opportunities it has opened for me.

Another thing I did recently was win the U20s Conference B Basketball Final at the Ball Hall in Latchford. The game was quite low scoring and unfortunately due to nerves I was unable to score. I played quite well and the game was quite fast paced. We were up against a strong team with plenty of substitutes and we only had five players due to some being injured or having other commitments. At the end one of our players was injured and we went down to 4 but managed to hold on to win 13-18 only allowing them to score one basket in the second half. We had a very strong season this year and are looking forward to promotion and playing in Conference A. Basketball has taught me how crucial it is to work in a team. It ha also shown me that a lot of the qualities that make some one excellent in the clinical field are very interlinked and only they can only be developed together. Communication and leadership are fundamental parts of team work. I am hoping that my time on the college council will really help me to develop my leadership ability.

Model United Nations

Last weekend I attended the national Model United Nations hosted by Joseph Chamberlain College. The event was quite enjoyable and the resolution I submitted managed to past general assembly which was very pleasing.

We arrived at the college mid day Friday to begin the lobbying stage of the model United Nations. I was representing the state of Egypt and co-submitted a resolution with delegates from Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Iran, Syria an Malaysia. The submitted resolution had heavy influence from my resolution and called for complete disarmament of biological weapons among some other things. The alliance was very strong and because we controlled seven votes, when it came to the committee stage of debate, other delegates were keen to win us on side so they would have 7 votes in favour of their resolution and were more likely to be passed to general assembly. This gave the AAF( our alliance) which stands for the Aniti-American Federation much power and we controlled the committee stage of debate. We instructed other delegates which way to vote and had all the power. Note passing led to some scares for the alliance when the Nicaraguan delegate amongst others were warned for the content of some notes but no matter, through strong debate, support for each other and a little bit of flirting, the AAF managed to get our resolution passed to General Assembly. One delegate took heavy influence from the sample resolution when writing his own resolution which the AAF challenged strongly. A personal highlight for my self was combatting points made by the Israeli and US delegation( neither are big fans of Egypt) and making both sit down with my argument prevailing. The chair recognised our control and humour in the committee stage and applauded us for keeping it entertaining but asked us to tone back some of the banter. The committee stage was very enjoyable and I asked lots of questions to challenge other delegations on their resolutions. The food was very good especially a Burger Bar where my college went to eat on the IMG_2083[1]second day.

The General Assembly was also quite fun and the Egyptian delegation despite little recognition from the chair combatted lots of resolutions and delegates. One resolution commented on asking member states to withdraw support for non state armed forces which I pointed out was illegal and therefore any state doing so has broken international law and instead of being asked to withdraw support, these states should be prosecuted. The delegate struggled to answer my question and Egypt kept up a strong performance through out the general assembly. We were positioned towards the back so the chair struggled to see when we had a our plaque cards raised and unfortunately we were not able to ask as many questions as we would have liked. I really felt like I developed my confidence from participating in the model United Nations and would urge anyone interested to take part. Very few people research their topics in depth so even a little bit of research allows you to really get involved and make strong points to challenge others resolutions. I would like to give a shout out to the Cuban and Russian delegation who were also from Priestley College and argued very well. The Model United Nations was well organised and supplied us with free water bottles which unfortunately I lost. I made lots of new friends as well and the model United Nations was an all round very valuable experience especially considering it was free. The General Assembly could have been improved if theIMG_2077 Ukrainian delegation who didn’t understand that  the Eastern European conflict at the moment is between Ukraine and independent States, rather than Ukraine and Russia. Because of this misunderstanding the Ukrainian delegation were really focused on instigating War and spent much of the general assembly insulting Russia. By the end  of the assembly it still seemed like nobody had truly grasped being able to speak in 3rd person and guest speakers participating in the Junior Model United Nations did a much better job at this.

Why do we wear clothes?

A video blogger called Michael Stevens put forth an interesting idea as to why we feel embarrassment and why we wear clothes. I found his suggestions quite interesting and how it relates to our biological complexity as a species and felt as though it was something I’d like to share. Although its not directly linked to medicine, it ponders why we have certain adaptions and what the possible benefits of these adaptions could be.

One suggestion for why we wear clothes is that it correlates to losing body hair and as we migrated from Africa to colder climates, we wore clothes to compensate. However research produced by a mamalogist from the University of Florida suggests differently;that there were several thousand years in between these events and there is no real correlation. This opens up the argument and allows for other suggestions to be made and the suggestions Mr Stevens made were very interesting.

Firstly, Humans are emotional beings and organically very complex. As a species, we have relatively small groups of offspring and also exhibit mostly monogamous behavior. Stevens suggested that all these characteristics were linked. The human gestation period lasts for approximately 9 months and human babies are quite underdeveloped. Compared to the offspring of other species, a human baby has significant amounts of growing and developing before its ready to reproduce an contribute to society. Because of this parental care is quite significant and human mothers take complete care of their children up to a certain point. Other animals have adopted a different strategy to survival. Because of the long parental period, human parents are vulnerable; not so much in today’s society, but previously parents would have had to feed their offspring and keep them under constant supervision. This means the parents are very vulnerable to predators and also of neglecting their own well being and security. Because of this other animals seem to develop more in the gestation period relative to an adult of their species. For example, Carcharodon carcharias which are Great White sharks have much longer gestation periods of up to two years and this means offspring are much more developed and can survive independently. Average litter sizes for Great whites is not significantly larger than Humans but Blue Sharks and Whale Sharks are capable of producing a hundred viable offspring. The focus here is on quantity to increase the chance that at least one of the offspring will survive. All of these pups are capable of living independantly aswell.  This means the mother is not at threat from predators whilst providing parental care to her pups. From Birth, pups swim away from their mothers partially because cannibalism isn’t uncommon and partially because they do not require any parental care. This is quite different to Human Offspring and is one reason why its possible we feel embarrassed.

To engage sexually and be able to reproduce, a male and a female usually have to be naked but the feeling of being naked especially in the presence of someone of the opposite sex, makes a lot of people feel slightly uneasy and possibly embarrassed. To remove this feeling of embarrassment we wear clothes, and hide our bodies. A lot of research has proven that humans and especially men are sexually stimulated by visual cues.  Wearing clothes removes a lot of visual stimulation and significantly reduces sexual arousal. This in turn reduces the frequency at which Humans engage sexually and therefore reduces opportunities for conception and for a female to become pregnant. This limits the number of children a women is likely to have significantly and aids in her individual survival.  If she is less likely to become pregnant then she won’t have to go through a long parental period where her and her offspring are very vulnerable. This results in her having a greater chance of survival and individuals having a better chance of survival leads to the species surviving.  Therefore we wear clothes, to limit our rate of reproduction and to sub consciously stunt population growth.

It is likely that why we wear clothes and feel embarrassed has absolutely no relation to our Gestation period, biological complexity or need to provide parental care to our offspring but its still a very interesting suggestion.



GP’s early retirement

Reading this article, I was alarmed at how the number of people per GP had fallen since 2009. I am a big supporter of the NHS and I believe it is one of the greatest advancements of our Nation and free health care should be accessibly to everyone globally. I also would like to commend the work General Practitioners do. It is one of the most popular specialisms and fundamental to providing an excellent level of care.

I was interested to find the reasons as to why the number of GPs is decreasing and the Governments propositions to try and tackle this crisis. Firstly, it seems as though the shortages are occurring because the GP specialism is not as popular to medical graduates as it previously was, 56% percent of GPs currently practicing expect to retire before the age of 60 and finally because lots of qualified individuals move abroad because people with their specialisms are quite desirable in other parts of the world.  Some of the reasons as to why GPs left the profession were because of long arduous working hours as well as an ever increasing volume of consultations. Not only that but GPs often come under scrutiny in the media and their portrayal is subjective and based around very few individuals with poor practice which is often highlighted ahead of all the good clinical practice which goes on and is not formally recognized.

Pay was another issue raised by lots of health care professions and with the increasing strain on the NHS, funding towards General Practitioners and mental health institutes has diminished. Jeremey Hunt recognized this problem and added that ” Politicians across the board need to acknowledge that General Practice is not resourced correctly”  In his opinion, NHS at the moment centers around large Hospitals which provide all means of care. He suggested that General Practice and out of hospital care were equally as important and underdeveloped areas of the national health service. I agree that out of hospital care is important and I’m interested how he proposes to integrate more out of hospital care in to the national health system.

Another rising issue is the number of qualified medics who chose to leave this country. The BBC estimated that ass many as 1500 left for Australia alone last year and with General Practitice becoming less and less popular with post graduates, there is real need for the government to motivate more people into the specialism.

NHS England recently announced a 10 million pound strategy to do just this. The first idea suggested is that post graduates wishing to pursue General Practise will recieve and extra year of training and unspecified financial support. How effective this will be at attracting more people to the specialism is uncertain. In my opinion, after 5 years of medical school atleast, 2 foundation years and a minimum of 6 years specialist training anyway, an extra year does not sound very appealing however financial support would be very beneficial to all of any background and class.  The training would/could involve extra training in related clinical specialisms such as peadiatrics for example or to undertake an MBA or any other acadmeical goals. Being able to specialise in more than one area of medicine does sound very appealing but it will be several years before any figures can be produced to show what effect this is having.



Hello world!

Sadly, I started blogging slightly late, so this first one is going to have a lot of information in it from what I’ve been up to since undertaking the medlink Course. Firstly, I would like to thank James Ridgeway and all other members of the medlink team as well Nottingham University because with out those conferences I highly doubt I would have as much knowledge about how to go about my medical application as I do now. I would highly recommend that everyone who is interested in medicine apply to medlink because it was well worth doing.

Since Medlink, I have applied at severall care homes and local NHS  and i’m waiting for responses on some of them. Currently, I am participating on a children in need and Warrington youth club program called Buddy Up which helps young disadvantaged people in the local area by giving them more social opportunities pairing them with a buddy like my self. To begin volunteering on this program, I had to undergo an 18 week training course where we looked at the basics of child protection and safeguarding as well understanding certain disabilities in more depth and how to be a good buddy. I am really enjoying this at the moment and the volunteering is very rewarding. I have also developed and improved on certain skills and qualities which I believe are integral to becoming a doctor or any career in a caring profession. Firstly, I have developed my understanding of how to communicate with people of different social backgrounds and age groups which I believe will benefit me greatly in my later career especially if I chose to go in to a Pediatric Specialism

I also Referee Junior Football on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I really enjoy refereeing despite it being quite challenging and i really feel i have developed strong leadership skills from this aswell as buddy up. Both of these activities have really helped me develop confidence and i am much more composed in difficult situations. Quite often people will challenge the decisions I make and I am faced with an infringement of the laws of the game where i have to make the correct decision. I believe this is much like being faced with an ill patient where I may have to diagnose a condition or ailment then create an appropriate course of action or prognosis for them to follow.

Another thing i have done in preparation for my medical school application is participated on the national citizen service. I participated on NCS over the first four weeks of my last Summer after year 11. During this time, I went on a residential to a Kingswood Centre in Colomendy where we did several team building exercises and had a very enjoyable time. The second week we stayed at the Peace Centre which is a centre in my home town of Warrington which was built as a memmorail for two young boys who were killed in IRA bombings. In this week, we had to cook, interact with a charity whom we would later be helping and develop ideas how we could help this charity. We helped a charity called Papyrus which aim to help with the prevention of young suicide. This is something i am very passionate about and really felt pleased that I was able to contribute in some way. The next two weeks we carried out our action plan which involved raising money through various events then spending the money in a way to help the charity develop. My team did seveal things over these two weeks including running a Fun Day, making a stall at Winwick Carnival where we had a lucky Dip, Cakes to Sell, sponge toss and many more exciting things. We used the money we raised to buy equipment for the charity which was greatly appreciated. I made some very good friends whom i’m still in contact with and really developed my social and team working skills. Before hand, i was quite shy but NCS really helped me develop my confidence and self appreciation.

I am also completing my Gold D of E award which I hope to complete before finishing my second year of college. For the volunteering section, I am doing Buddy Up, for the Physical section, I play Basketball for a local team called Northwich Royals, for the skill, I play drums and Guitar to grade 6 standard, the expedition i am doing through the college and for the residential I plan to go to Tanzania Morogoro with GapMedics. Many of these things  I do for my own enjoyment so the opportunity to complete the DofE reward and be recognized for doing these things is something which really appealed to me. Playing musical instruments is something I enjoy a lot and have done so for a while. At my High School- Penketh High School, I played in the Samba and African Percussion bands and in partnership with Thomas Boteler High School, we set the record for the largest assembled Samba Band.

In the first two weeks of this Summer i will be doing a two week placement in a Tanzanian Hospital and i am very excited and can not wait for this to happen. I hope to learn lots of new skills and believe developing these in a clinical setting will be incredibly useful. I will do several rotations during these two weeks to get a real flavor of what working in a hospital will be like. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to observe Surgeries and observe how professionals interact with patients and improve my understanding of good practice

In partnership with some other local colleges, Priestley College, which is where i attend have organised masterclasses with Cambridge University, which I participate in every couple of weeks. Previously we looked at how the occurrence of natural disasters effects biological variation, the applications of mass Spectrometry in both clinical and mechanical applications and how electronic configuration and hybridization effects molecular shape. All of these classes have been very interesting and i feel very privileged to be apart of them.

Another thing, my college arranged for me and other students to participate in was a Model UN debating conference. I was a member of the economic and social council and we debated on some interesting topics. I wrote a resolution based on improving the rights of Woman and the resolution I suggested and put forth received 10 votes in favor; enough that it reached the general assembly part of the debate. Later this month i plan to go to Birmingham and debate in the national Model UN. As a Scientist and because all my subjects are closely linked, I look forward to the opportunity to show my interest in other topics and debating skills. In my opinion, events such as the model UN are very useful and debating skills really are transferable to the health care profession. It allows you and other professional to examine a patient and make a diagnosis, then evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of different courses of action eventually coming to an agreement which is in the patients best interest.

Something else I would recommend to all interested Scientists is Future Learn which provides lots of interesting online courses to further your Scientific knowledge. So far, I have done a course on Ebola: signs and symptoms, and i am just beginning a Course about Cancer. It also provides Courses for other topics and I’m currently considering signing up to a course which takes you through building an app.

I have applied for work experience at my local Hospital; Warrington and Halton general, but i’m still waiting for a response to my application. I have also applied for experience at several care homes and i’m waiting to here back from them also. About a week ago, I sent in my Nuffield Application Form and i would very much like to conduct my own research in a clinical setting and the experience i could gain from this i believe would be very useful. A health care profession is currently what I wish to pursue but I am very passionate about Physics and if i received a placement involving Physics, this to would be very interesting.

I took part in a one day course provided by Manchester University going through basic anatomy and first aid procedures This was quite interesting and informative also. At the moment, the wider reading i have done is not that extensive however i have several books lined up which i will likely post about later once i have had a chance to read them.