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Degree: Infectious Diseases (Bachelors) - Edinburgh University
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Interviews are a way for the medical school to get a better understanding of you. Some medical schools such as Edinburgh don't interview at all, though the majority do. The interview is not the be-all and end-all, it is often weighed up alongside other parts of your application like your UKCAT, school grades and personal statement. As well as that, the style of interviewing varies massively between different medical schools: some take a very formal approach by sitting at the opposite end of table to you and asking you questions about why you want to do medicine; others have a much more hands-on approach, putting you through clinical scenarios and seeing how you react.
I'll go through some of the common questions that come up now, but whatever the situation, don't panic. There are rarely, if ever(!), right or wrong answers in medical school interviews. The questions are just a platform for you to tell them about yourself and sometimes discuss scenarios through with them.
As you would expect, no matter what the interview style, you will probably get asked why you want to do medicine. In this situation, often people proceed to orate a pre-prepared speech on why they want to do medicine (myself included here). However, sounding too prepared is not necessarily a good thing: it can often sound insincere. Therefore, it's often best to go in with an idea of what you want to say without planning it word for word!
What also comes up in interviews are questions about morals and ethics. These often involve a difficult scenario - the favourite is the following situation:
'A man comes in to A&E following a serious traffic accident and whilst in hospital it is decided that he requires a blood transfusion to survive. One of your junior staff mentions that in his wallet they found out that the gentleman is a Jehova's witness and as part of his religion cannot accept blood transfusions from others. He is unconscious and a decision has to be made quickly. How do you proceed?'
From the outset, this seems a very difficult situation...and it definitely is a difficult one! So what are the problems here? The gentleman does not want a blood transfusion though without one he will likely die. With any sitautions which seem ethically difficult to approach, the 4 principles of biomedical ethics are great helpers. These are:
- Beneficence - always acting to promote the patient's health
- Maleficence - never doing any harm to the patient
Autonomy - always respecting the patient's wishes for themself
Justice - always distributing benefits, risks and costs fairly.
So, let's apply these to the above scenario. Beneficence: we, as the doctor, are wanting to do good for the patient and giving him a blood transfusion is the best thing for him.
Maleficence: less applicable here, but we are not wanting to do him harm, and withholding the blood transfusion will cause further harm.
Autonomy: very important here! The patient has a right to make his own decisions: if he decides that he never wants a blood transfusion, that is his decision and it is our duty to respect that.
Justice: not really applicable here.
So, in this case, it's basically a clash between doing good for the patient (beneficence) and respecting his decisions (autonomy). So, now what to do... There is not really a right answer as this situation is so difficult but breaking it down into the biomedical ethics does help us. In these scenarios in real life, it is often best to consult a superior doctor for advice as well.
A third favourite question is about discussing with the interviewer something medical that you've been reading up on yourself: it could be an advancement in biomedical research or new public health measures. This is a chance for you to show off any reading that you've done and this really is a common question! What's best is to not bite off more than you can chew - pick a topic that you understand well, it is very likely that they will ask you what you understand about the topic you discuss and picking a topic that you understand well will give you a lot more confidence when you discuss it.
So we've covered three common questions that come up.
1) Why do you want to study medicine?
2) Discussion of ethical dilemmas
3) What medical topic have you been reading about recently?
1) Don't over-rehearse
2) Use biomedical ethical principles when necessary
3) Keep things simple!
For medical interviews, remember that there is a huge variation in the style. The university sometimes publishes information on what their interviews are like - certainly have a look at these!see more
To answer this we can start by breaking down the phrase itself.
So, 'myo' always means muscle. 'Cardial' means of the heart. So myocardial infarction means infarction of the heart muscle.
So what is infarction then? Infarction is a process whereby the blood flow to a tissue is so diminished that the tissue itself is damaged to the point of dying. The process of tissue death is known as necrosis.
But why does reduced blood flow cause a tissue to die? To answer that we can look at what a tissue needs to survive - principally, it needs oxygen, the gas which we breath and all cells require to function. As oxygen is transported to tissues in the blood, reduced blood flow means that less oxygen gets to the tissue, therefore, the tissue itself dies or 'necroses'.
So, in summary:
Myocardial infarction is reduced blood flow to the heart muscle tissue. This results in necrosis of the tissue due to a lack of oxygen.see more
Coronary heart disease is an incredibly common disease.
It involves the coronary arteries: the arteries which provide oxygenated blood to the heart tissue itself to keep it functioning. Remember that most arteries run from the heart to other organs in the body; the coronary arteries are the only arteries that supply the heart. Needless to say, it is important that these arteries function properly.
So, in coronary heart disease there is damage to the coronary arteries. The most common damage is build up of fatty material on the inside lining of the arteries. This process is called atherosclerosis - it typically occurs due to a poor diet with fatty foods and excess of smoking.
So, why is the build up of fatty material a problem? Well, once the material builds up, it starts to decrease the diameter of the vessel. Think of the fatty material as a mass in a tube: as the mass grows, there is less space in the tube for blood to flow. This means that less blood flowing through the coronary arteries reaches the heart. In the long term this can damage the heart and cause it to work less well.
Sometimes, the fatty material can break off from the vessel lining and block the vessel completely. This can be pretty catastrophic, as no blood will be flowing through the artery and therefore, there can be damage to the heart tissue from lack of blood supply, causing a heart attack (or myocardial infarction).
So, in summary, what is coronary heart disease?
It is a disease involving the build up of fatty material in the coronary arteries. This can reduce blood supply to the heart. Coronary heart disease can damage the heart and cause a heart attack.see more