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This Week in The Lancet

  • Volume 377 1719 (2011)
  • May 21, 2011

Farihah’s TLS 10 Question Challenge!

Does your enthusiasm for studying medicine need of some revitalisation? Farihah Tariq has completed our TLS 10 Q Challenge! Read her refreshing account of her thoughts on medical school and as she communicates an eager passion for ophthalmology you can’t help but be motivated by her infectious enthusiasm!


1) Why did you decide to study medicine?

From a very young age, I had always wanted to be a doctor. I hadn’t realised how young until very recently my grandma told me when I was three and decide to ‘help’ my rocking horse by ‘removing its gallstones’ which involved pulling its tail off and taking out the stuffing!  The following quote summarises why I wanted to commit myself to medicine. “One of the most sublime experiences we can have is to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick.” This is a clinician’s intrinsic gift to a patient, one that I would like to give and additionally, medicine encompasses problem solving, interpersonal skills and continual learning- a combination not possible in any other field.

2) Can you share some things that you wish that someone had told you before you applied to study medicine?

Before commencing my medical studies I wish someone had told me the competition only gets tougher! Once starting medical school, you soon realise that getting in was the easy bit.  Hard work, dedication and staying focused is needed throughout medical school and beyond because gaining specialist training posts in the field of your choice is becoming more and more difficult.

3) What profession would you be in if you weren’t in medicine?

I would persevere until I got in!

4) What is your biggest motivation?

Being passionate about medicine and knowing that having a place at medical school is a blessing always keeps the motivation going.  Having reached fourth year and seeing the light at the end of tunnel also helps.

5) What are you most interested in so far and why?

I love ophthalmology.  Eyes fascinate me, as the saying goes- ‘they are the window to the soul’! On a more clinical note, I would like to work on an international level, doing charity work and camps in the developing world for people who don’t have access to an ophthalmologist.  Many of these individuals have blindness which is reversible and knowing I can make a difference in restoring their sight would be rewarding not only for the individual but for me too.  I will literally see the difference that I will make!

6) What has been your most difficult module so far and why?

Pharmacology by far has been the toughest. I think this is because I’m very much a visual learner and I find it difficult to see how things work at a cellular/molecular level.  I also feel a lot of drug names are pretty random and difficult not only to pronounce but to spell which does not help when trying to learn them.

7) What is the most memorable positive moment in your medical studies so far?

Studying the head and neck anatomy was definitely memorable.  Prior to us learning the head and neck anatomy, the tutors and upper year students had warned us how difficult it would be as there is a lot to learn.  At first glance, with the preconception that there is a lot of material to cover, the head seemed to be a vault with everything just squashed in.  However, as weeks went on and with in-depth dissection and study, one could truly appreciate how delicately and beautifully everything was pieced together.  The human anatomy is engineering at its best!

8 ) What is the worst horror story in your medical studies to date?

An elderly lady had been admitted to the ophthalmology department as she had an acute episode of acute closed angle glaucoma.  Whilst I was taking a history from her, she asked if she would regain her sight as this was her good eye despite having very poor vision. She was in so much pain and then she asked “Can I get a new eye transplant?” To which I replied, “This is not possible”.  She then said, “Why not, they spend so many millions of pounds doing research and other people can get a new lung or a new liver why not an eye!”  It really saddened me despite the continual advancements in medicine, this lady’s loss of sight was irreversible.

9) Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? a) the wishful thinking version b) the perhaps slightly more realistic version

a) Being a world class ophthalmologist, globetrotting performing eye operations all over the world to eradicate blindness!

b) A doctor that can reflect back to see that I have become a good clinician and made a difference to someone’s life.  And providing I get on the training scheme to become an ophthalmologist, I see myself working in the UK and doing an annual trip to a developing country for some charity work whilst balancing family life.

I enjoy the medical education aspect that comes with being a doctor and view it as a responsibility to pass down knowledge so I would like to educate the future budding ophthalmologists.  With that in mind I have already established a national society (British Undergraduate Ophthalmology Society) for medical students and junior doctors.  Through our website and events we hope students can gain a better understanding of the specialty, especially as most British undergraduate medical students have on average one week of ophthalmology teaching in their entire time at medical school.

10) Can you share some tips/advice for others a) wanting to study medicine b) already studying medicine?

a) Getting in to medical is half luck, half hard work.  If you are passionate about medicine then persevere.  If you are rejected then pursue other avenues and come back stronger! It is an amazing career choice.

b) In the midst of becoming a doctor, don’t forget you are in charge of someone else’s life.  On the wards it becomes easy to see everything as a job and lose the passion that once drove you to apply to medical school. Don’t just learn for the exams but learn your medicine so you excel in your field and take every opportunity with both hands.  As Hippocrates says: “Life is short, the art is long, opportunities fleeting, experiments treacherous, judgement difficult.”

Farihah Tariq

4th year medical student

University of Aberdeen

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