Dr Qureshi: the evolution of medical students


Dr Zeshan Qureshi, a Paediatric Registrar at King’s College Hospital and leader of the popular ‘Unofficial Guide to Medicine’ series shares his thoughts on the evolution of medical students over time.

Zeshan Qureshi 2

Now that I run the ‘Unofficial Guide to Medicine’ student textbook series, I spend a lot of my time visiting medical schools, and meeting with the medical students of today, finding out what they do, and what motivates them. When I was a medical student, the landscape was unrecognisably different. Students worked really hard, but they worked primarily in the isolated context of studying and learning medicine, following what was in textbooks, following what lectures said.

You are always told that medical students are the future of the NHS, of which there is no doubt. But let me make it absolutely clear: students are the present too. You are taking on leadership roles, you are developing new initiatives to improve patient care. You are working in highly sophisticated student networks, with huge productivity: it might surprise you to know this is far greater leadership than many consultants will ever take on in the NHS.  We are rekindling the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that medicine has historically been associated with: Langerhans cell’s in the pancreas, they were discovered by a medical student, Paul Langerhans. Heparin, in 1916, was discovered by a medical student, Jay McLean. Foley Catheters, in 1930s, was discovered by a medical student, Frederick Foley.

I genuinely believe in the power for students and junior doctors to have an impact now. Our most recent book released, “The Unofficial Guide to Medical Research, Audit and Teaching”, with lead editor Tiffany Tang, a medical student, won a BMA Medical Book of the Year award. I was also recently invited to the Worsley Awards in Leeds, a powerful ceremony recognising student excellence. I presented the best academic society award to a wonderful group of students from a society called ‘LUMPS’, who supported students through paediatric placements, put on career events, and provided much needed entertainment to sick children in hospitals.

My final thought is this: intelligence, drive, altruism and leadership are all great qualities, but don’t ever forget to look after yourself. Even if we imagined a perfect NHS, it will always be emotionally grueling. Every time you go through a difficult experience: a traumatic resuscitation, a patient death, a medical error, be honest with yourself about your emotions, and speak to your friends and family to help you process them. There is no shame in admitting that you may have emotions that are difficult to process, and the earlier you start being open about it, the better you’ll feel.

Thank you very much for reading this, and I wish you all the very best for the rest of medical school, and your future career.

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