Holocaust Memorial Day 2014

image from: http://www.wlv.ac.uk/images/holocaust%20logo_s.pngToday is Holocaust Memorial Day and the theme this year is Journeys. All around the world today there are events that will bring us together with our neighbours, that will strengthen bonds of respect, and will enable us to pledge to take a step towards creating a safer, better future.

As an ambassador for the Holocaust Education Trust, I’m going to be sharing the inspirational journey of Holocaust survivor Kitty Hart Moxon and my recent experience of  Auschwitz at a special school assembly on Friday.

If you want to take a step and learn about the multitude of Journeys that people were forced to undertake, in fear of what would be found at the end, then you can pledge your support here.

image from: http://journeys.hmd.org.uk/wp-content/themes/hmd/library/images/lbl_take_a_step_lg.png

If you want to find out more about the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution and in the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, you can watch the Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 youtube video here.

Euthanasia for children in Belgium

Last year I wrote about the euthanasia of a 44 year old Belgian transsexual, Nathan Verhelst, which you can find in my blog here. Although Belgium first legalised the right to euthanasia for adults in 2002, recently its Senate voted to extend the law to children who are terminally ill, and suffering unbearable physical pain. Many Belgians support this new draft bill as they believe those children must have the right to decide about their own end of life, but there are also opponents against it, who see it as a slippery slope.

Paediatrician and supporter of the bill, Dr Gerlant Van Berlaer, says, ‘We are not playing God – these are lives that will end anyway. Their natural end might be miserable or very painful or horrifying, and they might have seen a lot of friends in institutions or hospitals die of the same disease. And if they say, “I don’t want to die this way, I want to do it my way,” and that is the only thing we can do for them as doctors, I think we should be able to do it.’

However, Christian Democrat senator, Els Van Hoof, disagrees, and fought successfully to restrict the bill to children with terminal illness suffering unbearable physical pain. ‘In the beginning they presented a law that included mentally ill children,’ she says. ‘During the debate, supporters of euthanasia talked about children with anorexia, children who are tired of life – so how far does it go?’

You can read more about it in this BBC magazine article here. You can also hear more about it by listening to BBC Radio 4′ s The Report – Right To Die programme here.

It certainly raises some difficult ethical questions, and I can understand why euthanasia is illegal in Britain. However, in the Netherlands, euthanasia is already legal for children over the age of 12, if they have the consent of their parents, and if the Belgian bill is passed in the lower house of parliament, Belgium will be the first nation in the world to lift all age restrictions. 

 

Manchester Medical Student – a worldwide internet hit

I read in the Independent news here the other day about a medical student, Tom Leach, who has won an award for his medical blog.

“One day I went into the library and there was a queue for the photocopier where people were copying my notes,” said Dr Leach. So, in 2009, he decided to create a website, almostadoctor.com. He originally only shared his medical lecture notes online with his fellow medical students at Manchester University, but they passed them onto others and soon his website became so popular with medical students around the world that it has now been voted by medical professionals as a global industry innovator, alongside Ben Goldacre and Sir Bruce Keogh.

Now it is used by thousands of students, with hundreds of articles, blogs and course notes contributed from students and doctors around the world.

Dr Leach, now 26 and working in Australia, said: “It’s like the Wikipedia of medicine, with doctors as editors to verify the content, but it’s written in a simple way.”

You can find his blog here.

 

From 2013 to 2014…

2014 is a big year for me; I have my A Levels, I’ll be turning 18, learning to drive and hopefully I’ll be off to medical school. But first I want to reflect on 2013, and some of the things I got up to on my journey to medical school…

I had great fun at Medlink in January, starting the year meeting like-minded people and experiencing university life. I came home even more motivated to study medicine and so I began to write this blog, which you can also follow here.

In February I was selected to visit Auschwitz with the Holocaust Education Trust. It was such a memorable and interesting but moving trip, which made me realise how important it is to always act with integrity.

I also travelled down to Southampton for a week to shadow a consultant Cardiologist. I really enjoyed experiencing day-to-day life in a hospital, and it was interesting to compare it to my work experience in a hospital in Malawi. I saw how much teamwork is involved and the variety medicine brings every day, but  I also saw firsthand the long hours and large workload it involves, as I was lucky enough to stay with the consultant’s family.

As you will have noticed I have a big interest in malaria, and in March after being inspired by the characters in Mary and Martha, I decided to write to my MP about increasing the Global Fund to fight malaria. I didn’t expect to get a reply, but surprisingly I received an invitation to a Parliamentary World Malaria Day meeting at Westminster. I was so excited but I had an even bigger surprise when I was asked to prepare a speech about my experience of malaria, and so nervously I agreed…

In April I travelled to Westminster for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases. I had to introduce the event by talking about the importance of fighting against malaria, which was quite scary in front of so many experts. Thankfully it went down well and I could relax and enjoy the rest of the evening, which I was so honoured to be a part of. Later on in the year I heard that it had been a success as the UK pledged 1 billion pounds for the Global Fund’s fight against Malaria, HIV and TB. I wanted to do more for Malaria No More, so later that month I took part in the Live Below the Line challenge and lived on only £1 a day to raise money and awareness.

In May and June most of my time was taken up revising for my AS Levels, but I took some weekends off to look around universities on their Open Days. I also began writing my personal statement, anxious to get it out of the way before my busy summer.

July began with a week in Dartmoor on my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition. It was exhausting but I had so much fun with our team. We overcame a lot of challenges together, and got along really well despite the difficulties we faced.
I then travelled down to London for some work experience with Alan Dangour at the London School of Tropical Medicine, which was really interesting and I enjoyed doing some research and then presenting it.
I also had a week’s work experience on the Aspiring Doctor’s programme at Stafford Hospital. It showed me the diversity medicine offers, as I shadowed different health professionals in many different specialties, but the highlight was a morning in surgery watching an open bowel operation. I really enjoyed the teamwork, practical element and communication involved. The surgeon was very good at explaining everything he was doing.
I also really enjoyed spending a lot of time volunteering at Katharine House Hospice. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know some of the patients and I’ve learnt that sometimes a smile and a chat can help people to feel so much better. Surprisingly I also learnt how to Bollywood dance, and demonstrated it to the patients with a dance teacher!

In August I travelled down to Southampton to stay with a consultant Nephrologist and shadowed her for a week at Portsmouth and Southampton hospitals. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed being able to talk to lots of patients, as well as medical students and healthcare professionals. A highlight was spending an afternoon in theatre with a Navy anaesthetist, who took time to teach me about his work.

After a welcome holiday in Portugal, I took my UKCAT test, which was quite scary as when I walked in, a girl came out crying, but thankfully it wasn’t half as bad as I had expected.

I sent off my UCAS application in September and I heard back in October with my first invitation for an interview. I was so excited and in return for blogging about it, I was offered a free place on the Success in Medicine Interview Course the day before my interview. It was a really useful course, which gave a lot of advice about the interview and put me at ease with practice scenarios, and their feedback afterwards was very helpful.

In November I was delighted to get another invitation for an interview, and I felt a lot more confident after my first interview. I’m now busy studying for my mocks and waiting to hear from universities about whether or not I’ve been successful. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be at medical school, looking back on another great year.