My volunteering last summer…

Last summer I gave up 4 weeks of my holiday to volunteer at a local summer sports school which I have attended from a young age. I thought it would be a brilliant opportunity to combine volunteering with my love of sport. For the 4 weeks I was assigned a group of children to be a leader of and luckily in the final 2 weeks I was assigned the role of paying careful attention to two children with behavioural and physical disabilities and ensuring they were able to fully participate in all the brilliant activities.

Although this was a very challenging position (of which all the other staff were very complementary on how I coped – I even earned myself an extra freddo at the end of the week) I started to enjoy the opportunity, developing a good relationship with the two children who had a brilliant sense of humour. The young boy had hearing and speech difficulties so learning to comprehend what he was saying was an onerous task but I was personally impressed at how quickly I adapted and began to communicate with him well (unlike many of the other members of staff who continued to struggle). I feel this enabled him to feel comfortable and confident in an unfamiliar environment with a large group of children with a wide range of ages. I also had the opportunity to support him in activities such as swimming which enabled me to offer guidance and develop my communication skills in a particularly challenging environment (especially as the pool was full with 40 more children!). An important aspect of my role was to maintain contact with their parents, reporting on how their behaviour had been throughout the day and how much they had participated in activities. I believe these communicative skills are an important aspect of the qualities a good doctor should have, and this opportunity has developed them in me.

My employer said:

“Lauren demonstrated impressive personal qualities such as tolerance and patience. She remained calm but assertive, maintaining her friendly manner throughout. Her mature, common sense approach led her to seek  advice and assistance when needed but it was her own determination and resilience which created a successful outcome for the child in her care. Furthermore, she showed the initiative to liaise confidently with the boy’s parent,  dealing effectively with their enquiries. ”

The highlight of my experience was at the end of the 2 week period, the farewell and thanks from both the children and parents made me feel that the strenuous task had been completely worthwhile.

I hope to have many more experiences working alongside a varied group of people to develop my communication and leadership skills further.

Thanks of reading again! Please rate and comment – I would love to hear your opinion.


Will a sugar tax really tackle the UK’s obesity problem?

In the UK one of the major medical stories in 2015 was the proposed sugar tax. This is has been a very topical discussion topic in my Economics lessons and I do believe its an issue that needs to be addressed ASAP. I find this topic particularly interesting as I am able to combine my interest in economics as well as having a strong health aspect. In this post I will look at why the government ought to intervene and discuss the truth other whether a sugar tax would be effective.

I believe it is imperative that we take action to reduce sugar consumption with the main issue lying in sugary foods/drinks (such as confectionary and fizzy drinks). Currently these products are becoming increasingly over-consumed due to the actions of the market. The problem is that when left to the market, price is too low; thus only a small percentage of income is required to consume the product. Additionally, foods with high sugar content are too readily available in the modern world with advertising strategies, both nudging consumers towards sugar-rich products. Similarly, there is information failure in the market; although the nutritional values are, by law, situated on the packaging they are often overly complicated, leading to consumers not understanding the true contents of the good. The pricing strategy is the greatest issue as many consumers do understand the long term outcomes of a high sugar diet but remain myopic and focus on the short term benefit (as we would all admit they do taste delicious).

The overconsumption of sugar has a private cost to the consumer which does not only entail the financial cost but also the cost to ones health. Tooth decay is highly associated with the overconsumption of sugar whilst obesity is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem which stems from the overconsumption of sugar also, becoming more prominent in children. Obesity often leads to further health problems; increasing personal risks of strokes and diabetes. The number of obese people in the UK has more than trebled in the past 25 years it was found 1 in 5 primary school children are obese. It has been proven that childhood obesity often transpires through to adulthood which could consequently worsen existing health problems and lead to premature mortality. This highlights the need for intervention to minimise the long term consequences from escalating in the future.  _86270174_2010623_daily_added_sugar_v4

An increase in health related problems linking to obesity, increases the strain on the NHS and will reduce its efficiency. Every year the burden on the NHS is £6 billion for the costs of treating obesity and if we fail to address the issue this figure will soon head towards £12 billion. As a higher proportion of the UK labour force encounter health issues, it is likely they will reduce their personal productivity by taking time off work. Not only is there a private cost in the form of lost income leading to a lower standard of living, there is a cost to the innocent third party as the burden on the taxpayer will increase (as demand for the welfare system furthers). As a result the production potential of the UK economy will fall and reducing economic growth rates – certainly not what we need in a time of recovery.

The proposed sugar tax would be a 10%-20% tax on all sugary products, including fizzy drinks and confectionary, where the revenue generated would be used to pay for subsidies on fruit and vegetables. This action is one of eight potential policies suggested by the department of health. This is highly backed by doctors in an effort to slow the obesity epidemic. This method has been proven to be effective in other countries such as Mexico where they saw a 12% reduction in the consumption of fizzy drinks after the tax was implemented. It is predicted that a mere 20% tax could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by 180,000 people.However I believe that in order to significantly affect the obesity issue there must be a combination of policies to be effective (for instance a clampdown on the marketing of unhealthy food as well as bans on clusters of fast food restaurants). In order to be effective the government need to be ruthless to reel the UK population off the highly addictive product.

I guess we are left to wait and see whether David Cameron chooses to implement this sugar tax and if so how effective will it be…

Introducing ME

Starting this new blog gives me the platform to express my thoughts and views on current affairs in the medical world as well as giving an insight on my journey into achieving my aspiration of attending a medical school.

So my first post I thought I would write about myself as well as what made me want to pursue medicine.

I am a sixth form student at RGS Newcastle currently in Year 12. I am studying Chemistry, Biology, Economics and Maths at AS level and enjoy each thoroughly. I think its fair to say the arts were never my forte, I have always thrived in factual subjects (which is clearly shown through my A-Level subject choices). My problem has always been that I rarely take a dislike to subjects, choosing my A Level subjects was hard enough so I always knew choosing my career path would be challenging. It wasn’t until studying my GCSEs where the ’stars aligned’ and I knew the career path I wanted to follow. I have always had 2 options; Economics (a subject which I love and am extremely interested in) or Medicine. Making a definitive decision to pursue medicine came after attending the Medlink conference in Nottingham in December; it is a truly invaluable experience that I would recommend to anyone in two minds. I know Medicine will be a challenge, but certainly one I am willing to accept!

There is one personal experience that certainly clarified that I want to work in a healthcare and care environment. On the day of my last GCSE after a lovely meal in a restaurant I experienced an allergic reaction (which after extensive testing was later discovered to be caused by hazelnuts) which saw me rushed into A&E. In spite of my terror and uncertainty over what was going on, the camaraderie amidst the team was astonishing and I knew at that point I would love to be a part of that. In a hospital a team of strangers come together to treat you at your most vulnerable moment and can somehow become a friendly face and offer comfort and reassurance – I believe it truly highlights the good in society. I want to be that person who has helped people in their time of need – seeing their journey from arriving in sickness to leaving in health with your hard work at the heart of the success.

The source of success in medicine is teamwork and I for one love working in teams. Outside of the classroom I love taking part in team sports such as netball and hockey and have represented my school from a young age. I am currently captain of one of the senior netball teams in which I help organise teams for fixtures as well as lead the team on the court. My position enables me to enhance my leadership qualities (whether on the court taking control of training or offering encouragement when team moral is low in matches) whilst also experiencing challenges and success with a group of people I may not normally spend time with. It is certainly a rewarding pastime and one which allows me to escape from the bubble of academia.

Thank you for taking time to read my first post on introducing myself.
Next I will look to talk about work experience I partook in last summer and how that has helped me improve my personal attributes that are vital for medicine.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and advice.