During the final year of the medical degree, medical students embark on an elective that enables them to get additional experience of health or care. This can take place in clinical or research settings in the UK or abroad.

Dr Harnish Patel, Elective Module Lead for the Faculty of Medicine, said: “Whether it was learning about cardiology in Mauritius or obstetrics in Fiji, we fondly remember our student elective at medical school. COVID rather scuppered many student aspirations of going abroad and many have had to look for opportunities nearer home. I have been amazed at the range of electives our medical students organised for themselves in the last two years, which is a credit to their resilience!”

Medically Speaking hears from Joshua Hanna, who has just completed the BM5 course, who decided to something a bit different with his elective period.

“After my original elective plans were cancelled due to COVID restrictions, I decided to spend that time fundraising for charity.

“I chose two charities to support, MIND and Force Cancer Charity.

“In December 2020, my mum was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Thankfully, she has completed treatment and the prognosis is good. During her diagnosis and treatment, FORCE provided her with physiotherapy and support.

“I also have had multiple friends who have experienced mental health difficulties and I have seen how the work of MIND is crucial in helping people with their mental health struggles every single day. I wanted to give back to these two amazing charities and raise some awareness for both of them and the selfless work they do.

“The challenge was a simple one – complete the 462km from Lands’ End in Cornwall to Lyme Regis in Dorset along the Southwest Costal Path. But I decided to do it with a twist. I aimed to do this within six days.

“Planning and training was a long process, which started whilst I was revising for my finals. Any spare minute I had, was spent looking at maps or out training. It was a brutal few months, but with my exams completed, I could fully focus on the challenge in hand.

“However, with only two weeks to go until the start date and things going well, everything took a turn for the worst when I tested positive for COVID. One week went by where I was confined to my room unable to train. It looked like I wasn’t going to be able to start on time but with three days to go I finally tested negative and it was game on.”

Monday 2 May, 5:30 am
“I set out from Lands’ End with the aim to reach Lyme Regis by nightfall on Saturday 7 May. The first two days passed by with relative ease and after covering 166.96km I was feeling relatively good.

“Day 3 saw things take a different direction. By 5km into the day an abrupt entrance into the home of Peter Rabbit saw me roll face first downhill. On getting up it was clear that I had done some damage to my left knee with weight bearing causing a 7/10 pain. Despite this I wasn’t giving up and carried on running, walking and hobbling through the pain. Sadly, after getting off the ferry at Dartmouth with only 118km left, I was no longer able to bear the pain of weight bearing and had to concede. A trip to A&E showed no obvious bony injury but that I had in fact torn my medial meniscus in my left knee.

“Although this was not the way I had hoped this challenge would end, I did manage to complete 344km over 4.5 days – that’s equivalent to 8.2 marathons. I pushed my body to new limits I did not “know it could reach and beyond. I am proud of what I have achieved and incredibly grateful to MIND and FORCE for allowing me to undertake this challenge in aid of them. They do incredible work every day, helping people behind the scenes. The pandemic has really hit them both hard financially and so I am pleased I have been able to give back to them via the donations received. Although I did not manage to complete the full 462km due to injury, my Just Giving page will remain open until the end of May for anyone who would like to support either of these amazing charities.”

An alternative medical student elective…

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