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Medical students - take your Year 5 SSCs abroad

Tuesday 26 February 2013

In the final year of the MBBS medical course at Barts and The London, students have two 5-week selected study component (SSC) blocks. This is an excellent opportunity for students to explore an area of interest and demonstrate early commitment to their future specialty.  A fact that most medical students do not realise is that the year 5 SSCs do not need to take place in the United Kingdom. Here we meet two final year students who took the initiative and organised international SSCs.


Catherine Denning (Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ghana)
"I went to Tamale in Ghana for five weeks to do an Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) placement. The hospital was the only one for miles and miles in the north of Ghana. As a result people travelled from far and wide meaning they were often very sick when they got there and had had no antenatal care to speak of. That meant there were a lot of emergencies and acute O&G and hardly any long-term based care. It is obviously very resource poor there so emergency drugs were often hard to come by (including oxygen) and if there was a post-partum haemorrhage you had to send the family to give blood otherwise they would just exsanguinate. Theatre often had no electricity and so we did a fair few operations by phone light. I learned how to deal with emergency obstetric situations pretty quickly and would say that the total immersion was the best way to cope in high stress situations."


Adam Hexter (Academic Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, USA)
"I was based at the Texas Medical Centre, the largest medical centre in the world, and took advantage of world-class bioengineering facilities for basic science and translational research and undertook my own research project.  There are many elective prizes out there and I was pro-active and fortunate enough to gain £1250 in prizes from the British Orthopaedic Trainee Association (£500), Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (£500) and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (£250). In addition to the financial support these bursaries also provide opportunities to publish a report in the institution's annual publication and present at their annual meeting.  The trip was incredibly rewarding both academically and socially and I perceive it as my second elective."

So how do you do SSCs aboard?

This requires organisation, commitment and the following tasks:
• Find a supervisor who will host you when you go abroad
• Get permission to go abroad by Dr. Martin Carrier in the Student Office.
• Complete self-organised forms  

It does require early planning and involves the same amount of paperwork as your Year 5 elective (Occupational health, medical indemnity etc). Therefore you need to start planning early but, like it was for Catherine and Adam, it will all be worthwhile when you get there.

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