Cambridge Subject Masterclass: Medicine

A few weeks ago, I attended a Medicine Masterclass held at the University of Cambridge and found it massively beneficial, so I thought I’d share it here.

It was a long drive to Cambridge and waking up at 5:30 to get there in time was a challenge, to say the least. Nonetheless the experience was worth it. As soon as we arrived, we ventured out of the safety of the parking lot to try and find some packed lunch. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we located a café in the law faculty.

With a sausage roll and a packet of crisps in hand, I made my way to the lecture theatre. I was momentarily concerned by the idea of spending a whole day in a room full of strangers, but this worry soon faded away when I met someone who, like me, had travelled to get there and didn’t know anyone. The first thing I noticed about the hall was its size – it was huge! Luckily, my newly formed acquaintance and I had arrived relatively early and were able to choose our seats. I do not know if I was more stunned by the sheer size of the room or the fact that there were enough people attending to completely fill the space! 

The room that was buzzing with chatter quietened down as the stage lights came on and it was time to begin. The first talk was on pathology, done by one of the lecturers at the university. She briefly talked us through her academic and professional journey that led to her current position as an honorary consultant in pathology before tackling misconceptions about pathology and the role of pathologists. I was surprised that autopsies were the smallest part of being a pathologist! Regardless of this, she detailed how an autopsy would be carried out and a hypothetical case study was given where an elderly woman living alone had been found dead by a neighbour. The examination of the organs using photos allowed us to identify a perforated stomach. This led to discussions about peritonitis, how it can lead to death, and how it may be caused by a lymphoma. Tests that would be carried out to determine whether the woman suffered from lymphoma were also described. There was an interactive element to the session which I found particularly engaging as we had an opportunity to see how different people attending interpreted the information provided in a different way and how this may lead to misconceptions in our general understanding of several issues.

There was soon a short break where we were able to feast on our lunch as well as digest the information of the previous session. We made our way to the toilets, which thankfully did not have a mile-long queue, before reclaiming our seats in the lecture hall.

The next talk was on how blood moves around the body. I had initially been puzzled as to what could be explained about this topic beyond the circulatory system which we had been learning about for years in school. It turned out that the circulation of blood is far more complex than I ever could have imagined; I feel that I would need to do further research to extend my understanding on the subject. One of the most fascinating things about the talk was the idea that sometimes our body’s physiological mechanisms can worsen a problem in the body which means that medicine given to treat some conditions may be to first counter the physiological mechanisms to prevent further damage. However, these mechanisms are crucial in surviving periods of environmental stress such as starvation, for example. I hope to learn more in the future about the positive and negative effects of our physiological responses.