Success in Medicine Interview Course

In about 3 weeks time I have an interview for medical school, which I’m really excited about (and a little bit nervous).

To help me prepare I’m going on the Success in Medicine Interview Coursewhich you can read about here. 

It is a one day intensive course, including mock interview questions, interview techniques and current medical issues. The course looks really interesting and helpful, especially because you are given individual feedback to improve your performance.

I’m looking forward to going, and I’ll let you know what it’s like.  

Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a worldwide event to promote female role models in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Ada Lovelace Day encourages people to talk about women scientists and engineers that have inspired them, with the hope that more women will be encouraged to work in these areas. You can read more about it in this Guardian article.

Ada Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer in 1842, well before computers were even invented. Her friend, Charles Babbage came up with the idea for an Analytical Engine and he asked Ada to translate his lecture notes for him from French to English. However, she did much more than that.

Suw Charman-Anderson, the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, said: ‘Ada wrote what is essentially a computer program. She wrote a description of how the machine could be programmed using punched cards to calculate Bernoulli numbers, a complex series of numbers. She broke the process for calculating the numbers down into small formulae and then she described how you would code those formulae into punched cards, so it could be worked out by the machine. She understood that the Analytical Engine could actually be used, given the right algorithms, to create music or to create art.’

Ada’s mother was responsible for making sure she had an education in maths and the sciences, after her father, the poet Lord Byron, left them when Ada was only a month old. Sadly, Ada died of cancer of the uterus, aged just 36, and her work wasn’t recognised until much later after her death. Now she is recognised as being more than 100 years ahead of her time.

You can read more about her here.

Since I became interested in studying medicine, I have learnt about the historical role of women in medicine, such as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first female British doctor, Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie. During the past year, I’ve shadowed two really good female doctors, Kirsty Armstrong and Sue Heyes, who have both shown me what women can achieve in medicine now, here and in Malawi, and I can’t wait to become a doctor and hopefully inspire others like they inspired me.

Read about more inspiring women in science, technology, engineering and maths here.

Ethics of Euthanasia

This week I was shocked to read a BBC news article about the euthanasia of a 44 year old Belgian transsexual, who was so unhappy with his sex change that he wanted to die. Two doctors made the necessary decisions that he was within his rights to choose euthanasia, saying: ‘Patients must be capable of deciding for themselves. They must be conscious and have to give a “voluntary, considered and repeated” request to die.’

Nathan Verhelst was legally killed on September 30th. I wonder if he might have felt differently in a few months, if he had had more counselling and psychological help.

One of the things I found particularly shocking about this case was that it didn’t make the headlines. In Belgium, euthanasia is not very controversial and MPs there are even now deciding whether to lower the age limit to make euthanasia available to under-eighteens. You can read more about that in The Independent news article here.

I believe that this could be the start of a very slippery slope. Can a child make the decision whether it is better for them to live or die? Do the child’s parents have the right to decide to kill their child, even if it is for humane reasons?

It is questions like these which make me glad that euthanasia is illegal in this country. I feel especially strongly about it, having visited the death camps at Auschwitz, where euthanasia was taken to horrifying extremes.

Since the Harold Shipman case, there are now much better regulations in place to ensure that doctors can’t kill their patients, and doctors have to be revalidated every 5 years to ensure they are doing the best for their patients.

As a doctor, I would always want to do the best for my patients without causing them harm. However, I know that I shall have to make some difficult ethical decisions, such as whether or not to withdraw treatment for a terminally ill patient (Extraordinary medical care), or whether to give a drug to relieve pain, knowing that it might cause the patient to die sooner (the Doctrine of Double Effect).

You can find out more on this BBC ethics website which sets out the arguments for and against euthanasia and assisted suicide really clearly.


New vaccine against Malaria

I heard on the radio this morning that trials of a new malaria vaccine in several African countries have shown really positive results. I also read an article in the Guardian which explained that 941 cases of malaria were averted for every 1000 children vaccinated and that the vaccine against malaria could be introduced into some of the world’s worst-hit countries in 2015.

This is really exciting news because malaria is such a huge problem with about 219 million cases worldwide and about 660,000 deaths every year so a vaccine will help to save many lives, along with existing preventions and treatment. This vaccine against malaria has also broken new medical ground as the first vaccine against a parasite, so it could lead to developments against other parasites too.

The General Medical Council and Tomorrow’s Doctors

The General Medical Council have recently published a news article about the failure to prosecute 4 doctors who held management positions at Stafford Hospital, because of a lack of evidence against them.

They are currently working with the Department of Health: ‘…to see what more can be done to increase appropriate accountability when things go wrong. In particular we have been exploring a number of changes to our powers to make our fitness to practise procedures more effective. We want to be able to hold doctors to account where they have harmed patients or put them at risk, even if they have subsequently shown insight and can claim they are no longer a risk to patients. We also want to have a right of appeal against panel decisions by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service – this would allow us to act when we believe the panel has been too lenient. We hope these changes will form part of the Law Commission’s current wide ranging review of the law governing the regulation of health care professionals.

You can read the article here.

The GMC also sets standards for teaching, learning and assessment and they have issued a document called Tomorrow’s Doctors for medical students which sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours that medical students must learn at UK medical schools and be able to demonstrate.  

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Latest research on the long-term effects of malaria

Chris Moxon, clinical lecturer at Liverpool University, has just published a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases that shows there may be a link between repeated bouts of malaria in children and a greater likelihood of them becoming ill later in life with other illnesses like cardiovascular disease (read more in this LSTM article).

This is because their blood vessels become inflamed when they have malaria, and they may remain inflamed throughout their life making them leaky and susceptible to blocking with fat. He suggests the possibility of treating the children with statins in the future to help reduce the inflammation, and prevent further disease.

I was particularly interested in this study which was carried out on 190 children in Blantyre, Malawi, because I used to live there, and my brother also caught malaria while we were there.



I’m interested, reading in the BBC news here, about the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) that President Obama has just introduced in America.

Mr Obama said the ACA would be “life changing for the 15% of Americans who don’t have health insurance. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year just because they don’t have health insurance. Millions more live with the fear that they’ll go broke if they get sick. And today, we begin to free millions of our fellow Americans from that fear.

There’s another interesting article about it here, which gives the view of a young American woman.

I find it hard to believe that until now seven million Americans couldn’t afford health insurance and many died instead of getting access to life-changing care. 

It makes me really appreciate our NHS which is free for everyone at the point of delivery.

Lessons From Auschwitz Project Certificate and Accreditation

Today I was really pleased to receive my certificate and 3 ASDAN credits for my work on the Lessons from Auschwitz project as an ambassador for the Holocaust Education Trust

This is what the examiner wrote about my project:

Megan demonstrates a good understanding of the concentration and extermination camps as the outcome of Nazi racist policies. She stresses the need to emphasise the experiences of individuals to audiences rather than dwell exclusively on the statistics of death, horrifying as they are. Megan makes reference to contemporary examples of discrimination against homosexuals and how such prejudices should be challenged. In association with her colleague she has organised a number of methods of teaching audiences through a newspaper article, blogs on the internet, an album for the school library and planned talks within school.’

You can read about my project and see my photo album here.