Cover Photo; A photograph of classmates taken by a classmate.
90% of Nigerian parents want their kids to study medicine. 80% of the best graduating sciences students will be coaxed to study the course. Only about a 10th percentile of these people will eventually get to spend the better part of their youth training to be a doctor. It’s definitely not a bed of roses but let’s not fool ourselves, it’s also not that bad, there are many many perks to studying medicine, some if which I have mentioned in this article that I encourage you to look through.
For easy navigation I have broken this piece up into segments so that I won’t forget anything and so that you will also have a wholesome reading experience.
How do you know medicine is for you?
You should know that at your age (14,15,16,17,18) most people don’t know what they want to do with their lives. It can all be a game of time and chance but that does not mean you should leave it all to luck and not at least think critically about your life and the direction you want it to take. I will highlight some questions that will help you find out if medicine is for you.
1. Do you like biology, and can you accommodate some chemistry?
In my opinion those are the core subject that will help build a foundation for medical sciences, although your English should be good too, but don’t be too bothered about that, they’re are many great doctors that speak bad English, at least be fluent in your mother tongue.
2. Do you like learning?
You don’t need to be a genius but you need to love learning because there will always be an endless supply of things to learn. If you’re someone that is easily bored by consuming information then you should look into other career options like engineering which has more to do with calculations.
3. Are you okay with enduring hardship, some/most of them undue?
Medicine is chiefly a thing of endurance. There will be courses you don’t like. There will be things you don’t understand. You will spend many years in school. You will miss birthdays and weddings and burials. No one is ever really ready for all that medical training costs you, but it helps to be able to mentally quiz yourself whether this is something you are really willing to give it all for?
4. Do you feel God’s leading?
You’re not too young to know what God wants for you. Pray and wait and listen. You’ll know if it’s right for you. I know I did. Don’t make the mistake of thinking, what does God care what I do? He does care, a lot, so involve Him.
Choosing A University
Okay, now that we’ve settled the part of you knowing for sure, we need to talk about uni. Don’t let anybody pressure you about any school, you need to check these things out for yourself. Ask questions from people you know who study medicine at those school. If anything comes to your mind, write it down and ask them later (you can ask me anything, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org). If you don’t have such people around you, you have the internet, instead of scrolling through Facebook, research, research and research!
Decide whether or not to stay close to home or far. I would recommend you stay close, so you won’t run out of money too often and you’d be really busy anyway so if you stay too far away you might not see your family for as long as two years and trust me you will need emotional support but I know not everyone has nice families so if you know being away will do more good to you, go. God can connect you to a new family of like minded people that will look out for you and take care of you.
Medical school is also an expensive venture, so be prepared to spend some money. And if you know you come from an humble background, look for cheap alternatives which are Federal Schools (although that is also speedily changing) and find ways to cut expenses, also be on the look out for scholarships.
The Admission Requirements;
Medicine is competitive, I don’t need to tell you that. Getting admission can be frustrating and most people (including me) don’t get in on the first try and let me just tell you now in plain text; there’s always a favour factor as there are many qualified applicants to study medicine every year yet most of them do not get in. I got admission into a school I didn’t even choose on my JAMB form. Story for another day.
You will be required to do very well in your science core subjects; Mathematics, English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics. I advise that you do well all round. There’s an higher chance of getting scholarships that way if that is something you need. You must be focused and know what you want on time. Do GCE first to get a hang of things and know your weak points so that you can work harder on them. I recommend that you do WAEC GCE and not NECO, because it is more standardized and more recognised.
For Jamb, you will be required to take the English, chemistry, physics and biology papers. Give it your all. Jamb can be weird but just give it your very best and if you fail it’s not a big deal, I’ve told you most people don’t get it on the first try, don’t lose hope. Get up and do it again. And listen, a gap year might be the best thing that ever happens to you, it was for me. I’m forever grateful for that one year I got to do A level’s, learn more about science and meet the best people. Some of the people I met back then are still my best friends today.
I’m happy I’m doing this cause nobody really told me in detail what the medical school curriculum was like, my dad tried but there’s only so much a person can know from the outside.
100level; differs from school to school but you will do the same 100level courses as those in your faculty. Some Universities have special rules for medical students, for example in my school if you fail any course in 100level you will be kicked out of medical school. Yup, just like that.
200level -300level; this is the preclinical part of Medical school. You will take on Anatomy (Gross anatomy + Histology + Embryology), Physiology and Biochemistry. In some schools, community medicine is added to that, while in other schools like mine, community medicine is done in the clinical half.
400level: is majorly pathology (Histopathology + Chemical Pathology + Microbiology + Hematology) and pharmacology but depending on your school, you might have various clinical postings interspersed through out the year. Clinical postings included wardrounds, clinics, scrubbing in on surgeries and the like. In short, shadowing actual doctors in the teaching hospital.
500level: Comprises Obstetrics & Gynecology as well as Pediatrics.
600level: Medicine, Surgery, Community Medicine (in my school) and Special Postings.
Take note that in 400 level you will be at least introduced to all the courses you’ll do in 500& 600 level so it’s not as fixed or static as I’ve made it seem in my layout. Special posting includes Psychiatry, Anesthesia, Opthalmology, ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) and other subspecialties.
After medical school you will then embark on a compulsory one year internship in a teaching hospital to fully horn your skills as a practicing doctor. The good news is you will get paid handsomely. The not so good news is you will work your behind off, but hey it will make you so much better as a doctor, isn’t that what we all want? So I guess we have a win-win situation on our hands.
The Main Exams
We call the professional exams in medical school MBs. You will write a total of four throughout your Nigerian medical education.
MB part 1- 300level, Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry.
MB part 2 – 400level, Pathology & Pharmacology.
MB part 3 – O&G, Pediatrics.
MB part 4 – Medicine, Surgery, Community Medicine (depending on your school) and Special Postings.
Coming to terms with the sacrifices you will make…
Medical school will cost you more than most fields of study will. You must be mentally prepared. You must arm yourself with all the information you can get and you must be prepared to fight for your sanity and worth. Don’t let medical school define you or your worth. Strive to be a balanced human being and give yourself the time and space to grow.
One of the reasons why I like and I’m grateful for medical school is that it always puts me in situations bigger than me and forces me to grow up and depend on God more. I see it as a blessing.
Coming to terms with the glory that will follow…
As there are sacrifices there are also perks. There are also mountain top moments that come with being a medical student. There will be glory days, and the glory days are very much worth all the sacrifices.
It’s my deepest desire that this helps as many young people as possible one way or the other. If you are an adult reading this, I beg you to share it with a younger person especially secondary school students and help them make better choices for their future.
If this is for you and you have questions, please leave your question in the comment section, I’d be overjoyed to provide an answer. I wish you all the very best in your academic endeavors and I hope to meet you one day and speak with you as a colleague.