What a MESS!

I know it’s pretty tough being a medical student, the long hours of trawling through countless lectures, the great amount of information one must regurgitate but also understand in order to progress. I remember the great dilemma of the first few years of medical school, to use the stack of books in the library or stick to lectures. The truth of the matter is are we ever really told what we need to know? The ambiguity of medicine is what makes medical school difficult, thus one must wonder how we all manage? I remember mid first year having a mini breakdown, thinking that I would fail the end of year exams because I didn’t feel I knew anything. Actually I knew the lectures probably better than anybody else because I focused on them. Lectures are an essential tool in order to filter out the unnecessary information from the masses of data out there. The Medical Education Support Society (MESS) specializes in this area. They provide additional supplementary revision lectures. Now I know there are plenty of sceptics out there. Isn’t medicine hard enough without having supplementary lectures? Yes medicine is hard, but the supplementary lectures that MESS provide are highly focused and specific, which enables students to discern what they need to learn and why. I have been to MESS lectures at Bart’s and the London and have found them highly stimulating simply because they back up the knowledge that is gained in the main body of lectures.

MESS is a society focused at the younger years, so the pre-clinical years only. It is designed to provide the conceptual groundwork and also highlight pertinent information to enable to students to see what is essential and not. I suppose one can say that all medicine is useful, but then at the beginning of your studies that is not the best way to start. One must build on a foundation rather than build a house from the roof down. So in these additional MESS lectures, often on an evening during the week, the lecturers, who are normally clinical students in their 3rd 4th and 5th years, undertake a lecture which aims to stimulate the student on the current topics being discussed in the main lecture programme. The great thing about this is that it is optional and an additional aid for the students that feel that they are struggling or are unable to obtain the grades they wish to. MESS also increase the number of lectures near exam time, to enable students to be ‘supersaturated’ with relevant knowledge. The current president Ara Askari, a 3rd year medical student states, “it’s no secret that medical school can seem daunting, MESS is here to help. As a society, we run weekly informal revision lectures that aim to provide a relaxed explanation of recent lectures, PBLs (Problem Based Learning scenarios) and the main learning objectives. We also run revision sessions and clinical skills sessions closer to exams to give students that added support when they need it most. Everyone is welcome to join and come along to lectures.”

I think this type of system is an important supplement to an already well-structured lecture timetable, as it allows for areas which are more important in the end of years to be consolidated, giving the student additional time to focus on other areas that are not examined as much but are equally important to becoming a good doctor.

By Harvinder Singh Bhamra

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