Jessica Southward

What job/study are you doing right now and tell us a little about it?

I am currently in my 4th year of medical school at the University Of Manchester. The course is 5 years in total. The first 2 years are pre-clinical and based in the university itself, whereas in the later years all of our learning takes place in the clinical environment. From 3rd year onwards I have been based at Royal Preston Hospital, which is a fantastic teaching hospital in Lancashire. My learning is all delivered by ‘firms’, which are placements in each of the medical specialities. So far I have rotated through gastroenterology, nephrology and endocrinology, respiratory, critical care, obstetrics & gynaecology, paediatrics and orthopaedics. In a typical week, I attend teaching sessions, ward rounds with the consultants and junior doctors, clinics and surgery, and I spend 1 day a week at a local GP practice. Clinical years are very much about ‘learning by doing’, so I make the most of all my opportunities, getting actively involved in everything I can. For example, I regularly take histories and examine patients, take bloods and insert cannulas, and even scrub in for operations and assist the surgeons in theatre. I definitely learn best this way, and am proud to say that I have received awards for academic excellence in the past two years, finishing 1st in my year group at the end of year 3. Another big aspect of my course is problem based learning (PBL). Each week I ‘open’ a PBL case with 5 other students, which relates to a patient with particular medical problems. From this, we identify learning points and then use these objectives to direct our independent learning for that week. The following week, we discuss what we have learnt, and then move on to the next case. Life as a medical student is exceptionally busy. I am usually in hospital before 9am and finish around 5pm, and in the evenings I always have either PBL work or other studying to do, as well as trying to have a social life! It can be tough at times, especially when exams are on the horizon, but this is more than overshadowed with how rewarding being in the medical profession is. I have always wanted to be a doctor, and in 12 months time I will be, which both excites and terrifies me (and my parents!). I am unsure about which area of medicine I would definitely like to specialise in, but I particularly enjoyed obstetrics & gynaecology and paediatrics.

Did you do any further/higher education?

I attended Carmel College 2010-2012, achieving 5 A Levels – Biology (A*), Chemistry (A), Psychology (A*), Critical Thinking (A), General Studies (A) and an AS in English Literature (A). I am now at the University Of Manchester studying Medicine (MBChB).

How did you decide on your career path and what is/was most interesting about your work?

I always enjoyed science at school, particularly human biology, and went on to study biology, chemistry and psychology at A Level. I had always thought about medicine as a potential career option, as I loved how it combined science and problem solving with interacting with people. I always doubted whether I would achieve the grades necessary to apply for medicine, but when I got my GCSE and AS level results I finally started to believe that I had as good a chance as anyone. Work experience and volunteer work confirmed that medicine was the right path for me, and after rigorous application and interview processes I was offered places at Manchester, Nottingham and Liverpool universities. The thing that is most interesting about my work is definitely the patients. Every patient is different, and I have met some wonderful and inspiring people who I will always remember. Having the time to talk to patients is something I will never take for granted, as for doctors' time is so pressured.

Can you share a couple of fond memories of your time at St Cuthbert's?

Highlights of my time at St Cuthbert’s would definitely be: • Being appointed as Head Girl • Representing the school at number 10 Downing Street • The Battlefields tour with history • My leaver’s Prom • Delivering a speech with Michael Longworth (Head Boy) at the Easter Assembly 2010, which was Year 11’s last whole school assembly. We had written this ourselves, and it was a lovely (and comical) way to mark our last assembly.

Did you have a favourite/influential teacher? What made them so important to you?

Mr McAuley: For being the funniest, wittiest most brilliant teacher I’ve ever had – and for being so much more than that. He gave me endless support, encouragement and words of wisdom for which I will always be thankful, made my cheeks ache from laughter and ears hurt from all his talking, and brightened my day when it seemed like nothing could. Essentially, he was the definition of a good friend, and my time at St. Cuthbert’s simply would not have been the same without him. Mr Gibbons: For making me realise that I had a talent for English Literature, for always encouraging me to push myself to develop that talent, and inspiring me to study it at AS level. Mrs Hunter: For making chemistry ‘easy’, for believing in me when I said I was thinking about a career in Medicine, but most of all, for building my confidence and helping me to believe in myself. Mr Anderson: For teaching me from day 1 of St Cuthbert’s to ‘never accept second best, because if you accept second best you become second best’. This has stayed with me through the years, and I know I will always remember it. Mrs Gallimore: For being the most inspirational, loving and devoted head of the Cuthies family - words simply just don’t do her justice. Her passion for St. Cuthbert’s was extraordinary, and the way she empowered each and every one of us, staff and students alike, was truly very special. She made St. Cuthbert’s more than just a school - she made it a family. Her saying ‘Once a Cuthies kid, always a Cuthies kid’ holds a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of so many others.

What advice would you give our current students?

Enjoy your time at St Cuthbert’s – it will be over with before you know it! You won’t realise just how good you had it until it's gone. Believe in yourself and have confidence in your own ability. Don’t let your doubts hold you back, use them to drive you forwards. Listen to those who care about you, even if what they have to say may not be what you want to hear. Don’t accept second best, because if you accept second best you become second best.