Medicine: a student's view

Marco, one of our Undergraduate AmbassadorsHello, I’m Marco, and I’m a first year undergraduate student studying Medicine at Christ Church. The past year has been challenging and exciting, for many reasons. Being taught by the best minds (my tutors and lecturers) whilst studying with the best minds (my classmates) seemed daunting at first, but now, after two terms, I know that my choices were right for me.

I came to study Medicine after my pursuits in journalism came to a halt after work experience. Science intrigued me, but a career in laboratory work didn’t seem for me. After shadowing several doctors and volunteering in nursing homes, I gained enough impetus to apply for Medicine. It was a big decision to make, especially since I had many different interests like writing and languages. However, it was only a matter of speaking to current students, doctors, and other healthcare professionals to gain a better understanding of what Medicine is all about.

Medicine and Academia

Medicine is unlike any subject I’d ever studied at A-Level. It’s not quite just Biology; we do learn a lot of human biology, but there is a focus on experimental evidence as well as clinical examples of what happens when our bodies become abnormal. There are some aspects of Chemistry, and we also do some statistics, but everything is focused towards understanding the principles of Medicine: how our bodies are organised, how the body works, how it can go wrong, and how psychological and sociological factors are involved in health and disease.

In terms of contact hours, we certainly have a lot of them. One advantage of being a medic is that there is a defined and structured syllabus to follow. What’s great about this system is that you always know what you need to learn and you can guide your learning in a structured and organised manner. A typical week in the first year consists of 15-20 hours of lectures, practical classes and seminars, usually in the morning. Whilst lectures consist of an expert discussing scientific concepts in one hour, practical classes typically range from prosections (similar to dissections) to histology classes where we look at tissues under a microscope. Sometimes we’re in a lab doing biochemistry experiments, which help to give a better understanding of what we’re learning in textbooks. In the afternoons, there may be between two to five tutorials in one week. Usually, we prepare for tutorials by writing an essay, doing some short-answer questions, or doing reading for a presentation.

As someone who is interested in research alongside clinical practice, I chose Oxford for its research reputation. The Medicine course at Oxford is also unique in its traditional approach to learning – two years of preclinical first, followed by three years of clinical teaching, with a year of medical research leading to a BA in Medical Sciences (distinct from the Medicine professional degree) sandwiched in between.

The first two years focus heavily on the physiology, anatomy, and pathology, which give a solid foundation for clinical years and for your career as a doctor. The third year allows you to be involved in medical research very early on in your career, and allows you to gain entry into an area of the medical sciences that particularly interests you. But it’s definitely not all science in the first two years – after all, why study Medicine if you want to be a scientist? There is also a Patient & Doctor course which allows some contact with real patients; our learning at these twice-termly sessions is extremely focused, which means efficient learning.

Often, you hear that medics have an unmanageable workload, but that’s not true at all. What’s nice about our timetable being more relaxed in the afternoon is that it gives you a lot of free time to catch up on lecture notes, socialising, and doing extracurricular activities. The better you become at organising your time, the more socialising and extracurricular things you can fit in. For example, I’m involved with writing for two publications – Bang! Science Magazine and the Oxford Medical School Gazette. Also, I take prospective students on tours and run activities as part of Access & Outreach Schemes. On top of this, I helped to start and run the college’s Ultimate Flying Disc team. If there isn’t time – make time!

Christ Church is an amazing college at which to study Medicine. Whilst there are no overt discrepancies in the medical course at different colleges, Christ Church does have its own medical society, which holds termly dinners, often with world experts. The Christ Church library is also huge and is well-stocked with medicine books; but even if the book isn’t in the library, you can also get a huge book grant at Christ Church so there’s no worry about missing out on books. It’s not just about Medicine, though. Christ Church is a friendly college with beautiful views and scenic grounds.

If you have any questions about Medicine, Christ Church or Oxford feel free to email