Sion roberts intercalation student

Sion Roberts

Why did you decide to study at the University of Leeds? What made it your choice compared to other universities in the UK?

The structure of the course at Leeds was most appealing to me. We began by learning pre-clinical topics in our first two years, before moving to clinical teaching in our final years. I felt the lecture-based approach of learning the basic principles before starting clinical placement was something that suited me better than patient-based learning and I believe Leeds has really excelled at this. I liked the idea of a steady integration into the clinical environment in my first two years, allowing me to build my clinical experience from an early stage, before beginning clinical placements in years 3-5. I also really liked the idea of learning anatomy through cadaveric dissection which is a learning experience now offered in very few universities.

What is a highlight on your course, why was this important to you?

Leeds offers placements with medical professionals who are pioneering in their field. Whilst I’ve been studying here, I have had experiences with some of the world’s leading researchers and surgeons demonstrating their techniques to us. This is definitely a real highlight of the course in the four years I’ve been here. The course also includes a strand called RRAPID, which teaches students a structured approach on how to manage acutely deteriorating patients. This runs throughout the course and builds upon previously covered topics each year. I’m sure this experience will prove invaluable in future clinical practice when applying it to a scenario that could otherwise have been very stressful.

What opportunities has the University of Leeds presented you?

Leeds offers a huge range of academic and extra-curricular opportunities. I have particularly enjoyed the integration of technology into the learning experience. I feel the additional use of iPads when studying anatomy has allowed me to achieve a firm grasp on the 3-dimensional nature of structures in the human body. Leeds also has a clinical skills app offering a range of media to help recap any skills learnt on placement, which I find particularly useful close to exams. The University also prides itself on its research facilities. The course offers a research-based strand called RESS that also runs throughout the 5 years. It teaches research skills, critical analysis and data interpretation and allows students to apply these skills to short written projects and the larger self-led ESREP project that runs from years 4-5.

There are also a vast range of societies for sports and careers that are available to join. I am a member of the rugby team (LMDRUFC), surgical society (Cutting Edge) and Community First Responder society (LMSCFR) and find these have each offered a wealth of extra-curricular opportunities.

Which intercalated course did you choose to take? Was this an undergraduate or masters course?

I chose to study Clinical Anatomy BSc for my intercalated degree.

Anatomy was a topic that really interested me and the prospect of being able to apply what I’d already learnt in more detail was something that I thought would also really benefit my future career. I hope pursue a career in neurosurgery and therefore studying neuroanatomy and the head and neck in more detail has provided me with an excellent opportunity to future my understanding of this field.

Why did you choose to take an intercalated course and why did you pick your chosen course?

I knew that as an aspiring surgeon this degree would be most helpful for my future career - it’s directly relevant and applicable to the career I wanted to pursue. I am naturally quite curious and anatomy has always interested me. The prospect of writing a topic of my choosing within the field was extremely exciting. The course offered a range of teaching on modules which are clinically relevant such as embryology and medical imaging. It also provides a research module that helps develop skills that are directly transferrable to the anatomy project, which I found particularly useful. Having already studied at Leeds for 3 years, I was also familiar with the staff and knew that they were really friendly and thorough in their teaching.

What were the key projects or assessments on your chosen course? How did they help you? Was there any specialist support as an international student?

The course assesses a wide range of skills and each module is assessed differently. It uses a combination of written exams, spot tests, in-course assessments, eteaching, dissection and a written dissertation. The written exams are short answer questions (SAQs) whereby students are expected to write a shirt paoragraph on the anatomy in question. These typically range from 5-20 mark answers. Spot tests are MCQ examinations that typically involve around 20 stations. At each station, a student is presented with a prosection and is given 2 minutes to answer a series of 4 questions on that specimen. In-course assessments include presentations and creating a poster. Recently, an additional teaching module has been added, assessing the students’ ability to demonstrate to the younger years. Students are also asked to carry out 2 dissections over 6 weeks in the second semester. These should illustrate your chosen project topic and will be marked by your tutor. The written project can be carried out on any anatomical area of your choosing. A list of suggested topics are also available.

My intercalating project is on the Spinal Accessory Nerve and its use in surgery. Within my project I discuss the course of the nerve; its signs, symptoms and treatment when damaged; and how to minimise risk of injury during surgery. This topic is particularly interesting as recently, there has been some debate surrounding whether it really can be classified as a cranial nerve or not.

I really enjoyed studying clinical anatomy this year. I found the process challenging but very rewarding. The methods of assessment differ from the rest of the medical degree which is predominantly based upon factual recall, however, I enjoyed the experience of writing freely, similar to students on other courses. I found the idea of writing a project on a topic of my choice to be an excellent experience. I would recommend this course to anyone  wanting to study a course that is directly medically relevant with an interest in anatomy or surgery.