An Interview with Shloke Joshi, a final year medical student at Oxford

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself!

Shloke: I’m 23 years old, a British Indian, and have been in the UK for 20 years. I like to play sports like cricket, badminton and football and like hip hop and rap music. I’m in my final year of med school in Oxford and I’ll be a junior doctor next year.

Q: What pushed you to do medicine?

Shloke: Well, my parents definitely guided me a little bit. They said to try and find a good job that would pay well and have good job stability. They wished they had done medicine. I kind of just looked at all the different good options really, like science, technology, economics and management. I’m not a person who enjoys an office, so when it came down to it, medicine was one of the few choices where I could get social interaction. It also had a lot of applied science, and in the end the decision was straightforward enough.

Q: At the time, what made you decide on Oxford’s medical course over those at other universities?

Shloke: I liked the tutorial system. At the age of 17, 18, you don’t really know much, but I just knew that Oxford was one of the highest ranked universties and I quite liked the prestige of getting in there, and that’s the truth. At 17,18 you can’t really say that you know what it’s like to go to University because you haven’t been to university. You’re still a kid. I fell in love with the idea of prestige and getting into somewhere good. I thought I could do it and it didn’t sound too difficult. I thought I could do the interviews and the exams, so if I could do it, why not try it. In the end, I tried and I got in.

K: Was there a reason you chose Oxford over Cambridge?

Shloke: Yeah. I don’t like Cambridge. I visited Cambridge a few times and it’s kind of a dead town and there’s not much to do. Oxford seemed like a much livelier city and I wanted to be able to be outgoing and do stuff. I didn’t really like Cambridge as a place and didn’t like the town.

Life at Medical School

Q: How have you been finding studying at Oxford so far?

Shloke: Oxford’s been an absolute rollercoaster. I think it’s got its own unique reasons why it’s been like that because it's oxford. But really, no matter where you end up, university as a whole is a very humbling and quite a significant period of your life. You develop a lot as a human being and it’s very transformative. In oxford medical school, the pressure and work ethic required is something else, and the opportunities are equally something else. Some of the trips I’ve been on, and the funding I’ve received has been really extraordinary and altogether it has been a great experience socially and academically.

K: What has been one of your favourite experiences?

Shloke: Last year, for my obstetrics and gynecology placement, I got to go to the Bahamas which was amazing. We got to deliver babies in the Bahamas which was an incredible experience.

K: Has there been anything unexpected during your journey in medical school?

Shloke: I definitely did not expect to be working as a medical student during a global pandemic. I did not see that coming at all.

Q: How has covid-19 affected your medical school journey?

Shloke: We had to take 3 months off, during which I worked in the Nightingale hospital in London. It was nice to get a break, but the limitations are a little annoying. Teaching has been changed quite significantly, and there is more pressure on our year due to the limited teaching and fewer rotations. We also lost our elective, which a lot of us had been looking forward to for a long time and that was unfortunate and disappointing. For my elective, I had wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand.

Q: Did you intercalate?

Shloke: All Oxford Medical Students have to intercalate. In my third year, I intercalated in Cellular physiology and pharmacology. The way it’s structured in Oxford, you get three components in your intercalating year: exams, an extended essay and a project. For my project, I did it on chemotherapeutic, a new drug that had been developed to be used in combination with current drugs and to see if, when it was used in combination, it would have a higher effect on a certain type of cancer (In simple terms). I did my essay on the neurobiology of Psychedelic drugs and their use in treating mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. My exams were on physiology and pharmacology.

Q: Which years have been your favourites?

Shloke: Socially, my favourite year was definitely the first. First year was unreal. I think academically, I’m really enjoying my final year. It’s nice to be at the stage where things are finally coming together, and the thought of becoming a doctor is less daunting

Q: What is typical day in your life like as a medical student?

Shloke: I’ll wake up at 5am, get out of bed, get into the car and go straight to the gym. I’ll be at the gym till 6.30-7 and will then shower, get changed and drive home. I then eat breakfast and drink a protein shake and go to the hospital. At around 1pm, I come out of the hospital to get lunch. Post lunch, I’d probably study until 5pm, then have some sport, meet some friends or play music. Basically whatever I want. I’m then in bed by 10pm, ready for the next day.

Q: Did you prefer your pre-clinical or clinical years at Oxford?

Shloke: Clinical by a mile. Academically, clinical 100%. But socially, pre-clinical.

K: Did you have a lot more academic work in pre-clinical years?

Shloke: Yes. Significantly more. In preclinical years there are many essays to write and tutorials to attend and it is a lot more driven. Comparatively, in clinical years a lot more of the onus on what you do is on yourself.

Q: Would you say that it was easy for you to maintain a work life balance in oxford?

Shloke: It is definitely not easy and is something you learn. It took me the better part of 4 or 5 years to get that right. A big part of self-development at oxford is learning where the balance is between working too hard and playing too hard and the negative consequences of either.

Q: Were you able to mix around with people from other degrees?

Shloke: Yes all the time. Definitely in the first three years, you’re constantly living with people from your college from other degrees and you mix a lot. In the latter three years (clinical years) less so.

Q: Have you thought about what field you may want to specialise in in the future?

Shloke: I want to be a good F1 (first year as a junior doctor). That’s all I’ve got my eyes on, being the best junior doctor I can. I don’t know what I’m going to do afterwards yet.

Q: If you could turn back time to before you went to med school would you do anything different?

Shloke: No. If I could do university again I would do a lot thing differently, but before university I couldn’t have done it more perfectly.

K: What would you have done differently at University?

Shloke: I’d work harder in the first three years. It’s difficult because the only reason I’d do things differently now is because now I’ve grown up. I’m more mature developed as human being. If I knew all of this before university, I wouldn’t have had to do any of the development, so I had to make those mistakes. Going back, I don’t regret anything that happened because those mistakes are the reason why I’ve developed and matured the way I have, and you need to make mistakes to learn.

K: In what ways do you think you’ve developed over university?

Shloke: I make much better decisions now and value different things in life. I’m also far better at time management and respect my own time and privacy a lot more. it’s a difficult answer to give because I’ve developed in lots of ways.

Advice for aspiring medical school students

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring medical school students

Shloke: Whatever your reason is for wanting to do medicine, whatever it is, you should tattoo it to your chest, because you are going to question yourself about this a million times and you’ll need to remind yourself. I think at the age you choose to do medicine, it’s very difficult to know what medicine really is about and It’s hard to make such an important decision. But what can you do about it? If you made this decision later then you’d spend loads of years doing nothing. This decision is a tricky one. Spend a lot of time thinking about it. Don’t just apply to medicine to study medicine. Apply to medicine to be a doctor and really think about the day to day. Do you really want to spend 40-60 years of your life working very hard in a hospital and seeing sick patients? However, it’s also extremely rewarding and a good job. You have to think about it. It’s very difficult to get a sense of what medicine is at a young age. A lot of the time, you make that choice at 17, 18 and you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.

K: Do you have any tips on the applications process?

Shloke: Be yourself and be genuine. If you’re meant to be a doctor, you’ll get in. If you don’t you’ll probably be better at doing something else, that’s all it is.

Thank you so much for your time and answering my questions :)


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