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“Physician, Support Thyself”

Edward Jenner, opinion writer, considers the prestige that medical students  hold within Cardiff University

Let me start by stating that this isn’t a rant against medical students, medicine as a degree within Cardiff or the Heath Park Campus sabbatical officer. This is my subjective opinion about the prestige of Medicine within Cardiff, the effect that has on medical students and whether this leads to ‘special’ or ‘preferential’ treatment.

The Degree

It is widely accepted internationally that medical degrees are among the hardest and require the most dedication on the part of the student. The medical degree within Cardiff University lasts for 5 years (pre-clinical, without interpellation) on average, that’s 2 years longer than the most degrees. I’ve never met anyone who contests that their degree is more difficult or more tiring that medicine, indeed, medicine seems to be the benchmark against which other degrees are measured ‘so much coursework…oh well, at least I’m not a medic’.  I think it’s this kind of institutionalised benchmarking that leads to a sense of prestige surrounding medicine in Cardiff University.

 The Students

What is important to remember is that medics choose to go into medicine. They are obviously forewarned about how much dedication their degree will require but I meet a lot of medics who play the ‘woe is me’ card. It seems to be an instant medic reaction to tell you their entire workload when you so much as hint at griping about yours. Also, the occasional condescending look you get when you tell a medic you’re studying a humanities-based subject is tantamount to asking for a right hook to the jaw, in my books. Again, this isn’t a rant, I’m aware that most Medics are nice, decent people but you have to wonder why the degree goes to some people’s heads. I have a couple of theories.

The Society

MedSoc is one of the biggest societies in Cardiff University (charging £25 for membership, most course-based societies cost around £2). When you have hundreds of people studying the same degree all socialising together, the sense of degree isolation within the University as a whole can increase how important your degree is to you and by extension, how some medics may see their degree as the ‘alpha’ degree.  The beauty of University is that you will meet people from lots of different backgrounds, who have studied different subjects, living and socialising together and I feel that medicine restricts students to how they’re able to interact with others.

The ‘special treatment’

I mentioned earlier that I believe medics get a kind of ‘special’ or ‘preferential’ treatment. My basis for feeling this way is primarily because they have their own sabbatical officer. Once again, this is nothing against our current Heath Park sab. (Hannah Pask) my issue is with the position itself. Firstly, Cardiff University only has 2 campuses, Cathays. which has over 20,000 students and Heath Park, which has around 5,000 (2,500 are medical students), it baffles me that there is a sabbatical position specifically to represent less than a fifth of the student population. Speaking with Hannah, she said that her main role is ‘taking the Student’s Union to the Heath Park campus (things such as the SVC, the Chaplaincy, ARC etc.) as the Heath campus is fairly out of the way of the Union. I understand this point but my counter argument would be that if a student (medical or otherwise) were truly passionate about getting involved, they would do so regardless of where they study. I don’t know of any extra effort made to go down to the Engineering building which is nowhere near the Union. Also, most medical students live in Cathays, so they’re never truly that far from the Union.

I understand that Medicine is more of a lifestyle than a degree, moreso then any other degree and in that sense, they may need a voice within the Union and if it weren’t for the existence of the aforementioned, incredibly powerful, MedSoc, I’d understand how a sabbatical officer would be able to help with that.

More examples of special treatment is the new ‘IV Lounge’ installed in the Heath Park campus, which serves properly cooked food, I know this is for the benefit of the entire heath park campus but the humanities café doesn’t even have a meal deal on sandwiches. Also, the redesign of the health library leaves ASSL looking like one of Stalin’s Gulag’s.

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