University Open Days

Tomorrow I’m going to a university fair at Staffordshire University, where there will be lots of talks about different courses and representatives from different universities. I’m hoping to get some useful information about the different types of medical courses on offer.

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In the summer I shall be visiting several universities on their Open Days to find out more about their medical courses and what they offer. Below are some of the days I’m looking at so far. If you want to find out more, click on the name of the university to link to their Open Day page.

Saturday 15th June: Sheffield

Thursday 20th June: Birmingham

Friday 21st June: Manchester

Saturday 22nd June: Liverpool

Thursday 27th June: UCL

Saturday 29th June: Nottingham

Saturday 6th July: Southampton

Saturday 7th September: Cardiff

Saturday 14th September: Bristol

Saturday 28th September: Newcastle

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Beware of Spam!

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On Friday I woke up and looked at my phone which had 34 messages. At first I thought I’d suddenly become very popular… but when I opened them all I found they were random spam comments on all of the posts on my blog! I keep getting these comments which make no sense and are very annoying, so if anyone else gets them too, don’t approve them, report them as spam!! 

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Uses and abuses of cocaine – a MedSoc talk

On Monday, I attended a MedSoc talk at school, given by Professor Alan Dronsfield, a retired Professor of the History of Science at Derby University. It was a very interesting talk all about the use and abuse of cocaine, and you can see more about it here. I found it fascinating that before it was realised cocaine had harmful effects, it was used in soft drinks like Coca-Cola. It was also used as an anaesthetic for tooth fillings and for other surgery, which was quite dangerous as doctors were sometimes unsure about the right dosage to give. In addition, many surgeons and dentists became addicted to it, and a safer alternative was looked for by chemists. Procaine, which was derived from cocaine, was synthesised instead, and was still being used as an anaesthetic in the 1960s.

I think we are very lucky to have a medical society at school, and to have the chance to hear from interesting medical professionals. I would like to thank Professor Dronsfield for giving up his time to talk to us. 

Katharine House Hospice

On Tuesday evening after school, I had an interview and a tour of Katharine House Hospice, in Stafford. Soon I’ll be able to volunteer there regularly and gain valuable work experience. I was surprised at all of the facilities they offer patients, and I am looking forward to helping there after my exams. 

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Letter from The House of Commons

photo-2-1Today I received this letter from Jeremy Lefroy, inviting me to give a presentation at the World Malaria Day All Party Parliamentary Group (APPMG) meeting, about why I believe malaria needs to be a priority for Government. I think that it’s an amazing opportunity, and I’m really excited but a bit nervous too! 

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All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases

Today I received an email from Susan Dykes, coordinator of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (APPMG).  Jeremy Lefroy showed her the letter I wrote to him and she has invited me to take part in their World Malaria Day event on 23rd April, in Westminster.

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The APPMG hold regular monthly meetings and invite experts in the field of malaria and tropical diseases to talk and debate with parliamentarians, to try to find both urgent and long term solutions to malaria. They also discuss new ideas and new technologies and methods of field work in the battle against malaria and other treatable diseases.

They take evidence from academic, governmental, international agency, charitable, private sector, professional and other people. Each year they publish an annual report of the evidence gathered by the world’s leading professionals, in order to try to eradicate malaria for good. Jeremy Lefroy is the chairman of the APPMG. 

I’m really excited about going and taking part in the event, as I shall not only learn more about what’s being done to prevent malaria, but also meet some interesting people from different fields.

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Letter to Jeremy Lefroy

I have written this letter to my local MP, Jeremy Lefroy, asking for his support in ending malaria. You can Add your voice too, by writing to your local MP. 

Dear Mr Lefroy,

It was really interesting to meet you when I went to Auschwitz last
month, and to hear about your time in Tanzania. As you know, I’m in the
sixth form, after which I’m hoping to study medicine.
I was first inspired to become a doctor after my younger
brother, caught malaria in Malawi. I really admire the doctors
I met out there and the vital work they do, despite the country’s
poverty and difficulties. Now I’m back in England, I’m raising
awareness and money for ‘Malaria No More’, through my blog about my
journey from Malawi to medical school:

I think the UK’s commitment to help halve malaria deaths in at least 10
of the world’s most affected countries by 2015 is so important, and I
would love it if, like me, you could support this amazing commitment
and ensure that it’s backed with sufficient funding. My brother was so
lucky; he was fit and healthy and had access to a private hospital
where he was given life-saving treatment, and was able to recover
quickly. Unfortunately, 1500 children are still dying every day from
malaria, even though it’s preventable.

There’s been amazing progress made in the last 10 years, with deaths
from malaria cut by over 25%, but I don’t feel that this is enough.
Although the UK has played a leading role in reducing malaria, if we
don’t do more, then malaria could rapidly rise again. It would be great
if you could join me in calling for action now, to make sure that this
doesn’t happen.

If you could pass this email to the Secretary of State for
International Development, I’d like to ask her to redouble UK efforts
against malaria, including support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
TB and Malaria. It’s already saved almost 9 million lives, but
desperately needs topping up if it’s to continue its vital work.

I believe that defeating malaria would be the greatest humanitarian
achievement of all time, and it is achievable, with enough money and
the right leadership. Ending deaths caused by malaria is very important
to me personally. I know that millions of children die because of the
disease and, without the right care, it could easily have been my

Thank you for your support,


Interview with my Great-Auntie Joan, a nurse

Recently I’ve been looking at different medical schools, so I asked my great-auntie Joan about her experiences at Barts in London, where she trained to be a nurse in the 1950s.

Me: Who or what inspired you to go into nursing?

Joan: I wanted to do something practical and worthwhile -the pay for my first month’s work was just over £7, so it was not for the money!

Me: What was it like to study at Barts?

Joan: It was good to be in central London, where I had friends who lived and worked, but it was hard work. We worked on the wards or theatres for a 48 hour week but with time off during the day for study and recreation. The facilities for study were good for their time but the work was much more practical then, than it is now. On the other hand one learns and understands much more by actually doing something fo patients rather than reading about it – even if the actual ‘hands-on’ work is, at times, rather grim.

Me: What have been your most challenging and rewarding experiences during your career?

Joan: One of the most challenging things was having to deal with a man in Casualty, who had fallen through a roof dragging a barrel of tar all over him. The training for my Girl Guide Laundress badge was the most useful for getting tar off his face, hands and hair!  He needed some medical help, too.
Another was a girl on her honeymoon, who came into Casualty and was transferred to the ward with a tracheostomy (quite rare in those days) and in an Oxygen tent. I was specialing her for a whole Easter week-end and everyone thought she was going to die – until to our surprise she aborted twins and walked out a week later!

Me: If you were just starting out now, would you still think that nursing is a good career choice?

Joan: NO! I think the country will be so poor/third world soon that patient’s relatives will be bringing in food and sleeping under the beds!

I’d like to thank my great-aunt for taking the time to answer my questions. She is a great inspiration!

The inspirational story of Jo Yirrell

Yesterday evening I watched Mary and Martha, on BBC 1. I found the film incredibly moving, and it has inspired me to do more to help in the fight against malaria. This morning I received this email from Jo Yirrell, the lady who inspired the character of Martha. 

Dear Megan, 

Did you watch Mary and Martha, the new film written by Richard Curtis shown on BBC1 this evening? 
If you did, I hope you’ll agree that no parent should lose their child to a preventable disease that costs £1 to treat. 
My son Harry died from malaria and my story was part of the inspiration for this film and the character of Martha. I see a lot of myself in her, and just like Martha I got involved with the fight against malaria after my loss. I am honoured to have been able to help and I hope that this important film moves, inspires and engages people across the world about our generation’s momentous opportunity to stop suffering and death from malaria.
My own experience shows the reality behind the fiction of Mary and Martha and, sadly, the impact of malaria is devastating for the people who live in malarial areas.  A child dies every minute from malaria, 90% of these deaths are in Africa, 86% are children under five, but we are alive at a time when making malaria no more can be a reality; please make sure you’re part of it.
Here’s what you can do to help make sure no parent loses their child to malaria:
Donate now – Your donation has the power to save lives
Live Below the Line – Can you live on £1 a day for five days?
Add your voice – Ask your MP to help halve malaria deaths in 10 countries
Thank you from the bottom of my heart
Jo Yirrell
Special Ambassador for Malaria No More UK

I have decided to ‘add my voice’, by writing to my local MP, Jeremy Lefroy, to ask him about what more can be done to help end deaths caused by malaria.

Mary and Martha

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Today, BBC1 are showing a drama, written by Richard Curtis, about malaria, for Comic Relief. The film is about two women, Mary and Martha, who have both lost children to malaria, and want to try to prevent it killing any more people.

You can watch a clip of Mary and Martha here.

Although the film is very sad, I think it’s a really important message, and hopefully it will make a difference.

You can help make a difference too, by going to my Just giving page where I’m raising money for Malaria No More.

Interview with Chris Richardson-Wright of Malaria No More

Chris Richardson-Wright works for Malaria No More and he has kindly answered my questions about their work to combat malaria.

Me: I know that you have partnerships in Ghana, Botswana and Namibia which are already helping to protect over ten million people from malaria, are you planning on expanding into other African countries, like Malawi?

Malaria No More: Malaria No More UK invests in countries and programmes according to the extent of a country’s malaria burden and our ability to make a sizeable impact. To date, this has led to investments in: Ghana, where 100% of the population is at risk of malaria; Botswana and Namibia, where a comparatively smaller malaria burden has enabled them to adopt ambitious strategies towards malaria elimination. An example of one of our recent projects in Namibia can be found here and with the help of the Global Fund we’re rolling out the pilot scheme across the country. Whilst we are currently investing in malaria control programmes on the ground in Ghana, Botswana and Namibia – where we have been able to use our funding to leverage a significant impact – our advocacy and communications support extends across Africa and beyond. Our efforts have, for example, helped to secure an increase in UK aid support for malaria, with the government committed to spending up to £500 million per year on malaria by 2014. We have also been successful in advocating with DFID for this funding to be directed at those countries hardest hit by the malaria epidemic – including Uganda, Rwanda & Ethiopia. Go here for more information on where UK aid is being spent on malaria. 

Me: There is a focus on mosquito nets for the prevention of malaria, but in reality people can still become infected when they are not sleeping under their net. How likely is it that there will be a vaccine available in the future?

Malaria No More: Vaccines are seen as the most effective – and often cheapest – means to stop the spread of disease. Scientists around the world are working on the development of a vaccine against malaria and there are promising developments on a weekly basis. However, the malaria parasites have proven to be remarkably adaptable. They change their characteristics as antibodies are developed, making it hard to find a vaccine.

Currently there is no vaccine that has been approved for use, although there are trials of a malaria vaccine happening at present in Africa. It will be some years before a vaccine is available to help prevent the spread of malaria among all those vulnerable to the disease. In the meantime, we need to concentrate on providing prevention, testing and treatment.

It is worth noting that although a vaccine would be a great solution, we do have the tools to achieve country-level elimination of malaria without vaccines, and bed nets remain one of our most effective weapons.

Me: How close are we to achieving the global goal of near zero deaths from malaria by 2015?

Malaria No More: The target of near zero malaria deaths by 2015 was set by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership in 2008, we have the knowledge and tools to make this vision a reality. Increased international support and strong African leadership have enabled tremendous progress with malaria deaths reduced by almost 10% between 2008 and 2009. However, we are still a long way from achieving this goal and increased and sustained support will be critical over the next few years. Current international funding in 2011 amounts to just one third of the anticipated need. Although it looks increasingly likely that the target may be beyond us, it has provided a brilliant aim for the global malaria campaign to rally around and has helped launch initiatives that otherwise may not have come into effect. Funding decisions made over the next few years could determine whether we continue to see a decline in malaria cases, or whether we see a resurgence in the disease, so we have to make sure that we keep up the pressure and the effort to fight the disease.

Malaria No More – Live Below the Line

Malaria No More have sent me this information about a great challenge which is coming up to raise money for the charity…

“Live Below the Line is back!
Between 29 April and 3 May, we will be part of an amazing movement to help tackle malaria and other causes of extreme poverty. Hundreds of people from all walks of life will be Living Below the Line for Malaria No More UK.

The Challenge?  To live on £1 for all food and drink for 5 days. Why?  Because that’s the reality for the 1.4 billion people who live below the poverty line everyday for everything.

It sounds like a tough challenge, but we and 200 of our supporters and friends took part last year raising vital funds and awareness to help beat malaria.  Take a look at this short film clip to see how much fun we had.

Will you join us in 2013?

It’s less than two weeks until Live Below the Line launches for 2013, but it’s not too late to get ahead of the crowd and sign up now.

Malaria is one of the greatest causes of poverty in Africa, but it’s one of the cheapest to end.  In fact it costs less than the price of a cup of coffee to treat a child and save their life. You can be a part of making malaria no more by signing up to Live Below the Line this year.”