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Dr Iain Kennedy



Chief Mentor for Medical Awards


I graduated from Leeds Medical School in 2013, where I also intercalated in clinical sciences and medical research. That makes me a doctor, and a bit of a scientist…a geek by any other name. My undergraduate years were a highly varied collection of experiences: most of them enjoyable, some of them testing, some more entertaining than others, some fairly disgusting and others frankly career defining. I was a high achiever at university; took home around £20,000 in scholarships, awards and prizes; and managed to secure a competitive Academic Foundation Post (as a junior doctor). Ever since I started medical school in 2008 however, I had been reflecting strongly on my own application process (via the Bradford Clinical Sciences transfer course). To this day, I still think about how much more prepared I could have been during secondary school. It was this mindset that led me to get involved in Medic Mentor. 

Besides thinking about the atypical start of my own medical journey, I also realised pretty early on in my training, that just being a ‘medic’ would never be enough for me. Having studied English Literature at A-level, I have always enjoyed writing in many different forms. Medical school fulfilled this creative outlet somewhat by introducing me to the world of research. Here I was able to design studies, ask deep and meaningful questions and write something other than a ‘single-best answer’ or ‘multiple choice’ paper. To be fair, there were actually quite a few writing opportunities at Leeds, such as ethics assignments, mini elective modules, reflective essays and (surprisingly) a book review. These opportunities allowed me to look beyond the role of a clinician, and to think about the wider implications of becoming a doctor; not just society’s need for more medics but what becoming a doctor can actually mean for individual medical school applicants, and their families. In fact, I struggle to think of a single career (with the exception of dental and veterinary medicine), that can provide such a wealth of transferrable skills alongside as many opportunities to employ them. 

Becoming a doctor is hard and it will never make you rich (in most people’s estimations). Completing this journey however, will invariably place you in a uniquely valued and well-supported occupation. The job security, career progression and future proofing alone are the envy of many (of my) graduate contemporaries. For these reasons, I often wonder why more people do not apply to the career…at which point I come back full-circle to all the barriers I faced along the way. Misinformation, self-doubt and the overly vocal ignorance of others; the reasons why I had to go via the transfer route. On some level, most of us are vaguely aware that there are barriers to medical training. It is for this reason that the General Medical Council and consequently all universities, have some form of widening access to medical school (WAMS) programme. These approaches demonstrate variable success in my opinion, and sometimes do little more than highlight the problem instead of focusing on the solution. This is where Medic Mentor comes in. 

Over the past five years, this UK-wide social mentoring organisation has had one broad focus: improving the wellbeing and happiness of our healthcare colleagues. Being doctors (dentists, and vets) however, we are inclined to focus on the source of problems, and we strive towards the ideal that prevention is the best cure. So how then to make sure that we have happy healthcare professionals? Well how about starting at the beginning with informed career choices, developing realistic insight and supporting the most suitable aspiring healthcare professionals, through the minefield of application? How about providing educational projects that stimulate the personal and professional development of current students AND which result in the production of valuable support resources for applicants? How about reinvesting all proceeds into a Student Diversity Fund to ensure that these resources are free to those who would otherwise be unable to afford them, and still subsidised for those who can? How about sinking all remaining funds at the end of each year into a scholarship fund, to provide financial bursaries to support the study and development of our undergraduate colleagues? How about harnessing the reflective experiences and transferrable skills of our many hundreds of professional volunteers around the UK; to inspire and to motivate the next generation of gamechangers in healthcare? This is what Medic Mentor means to me…

 …then again, I just like writing books, being a geek and making people happy!