An Interview with Jaclyn Tan, a 5th-year Medical Student at UCL

"Jaclyn Tan" "UCL" "Kathryn Chia" "Apothekathryn"
Jaclyn with her BSc dissertation submission

Tell us a little about yourself!

I'm Jaclyn, a fifth-year medical student at UCL. I am currently in my penultimate year and will graduate in 2022. With regards to my interests within the field of medicine, I am involved in research and analytics in Surgery, medical technology and health policy. I also currently serve as a freelance medical journalist and write about healthcare leadership. Because my daily line of work is quite facts-based and rigid, I find myself drifting towards things like singing jazz, painting and poetry during my spare time just to unwind!

What pushed you to do medicine? I guess it sounds cliché every time you hear it, but I wanted a profession which provided a harmonious marriage between intellectual challenge and being able to make a difference to the people around you. I actually considered other fields such as dentistry or even law, but it is safe to say that I made the right choice. Ultimately, what I found most helpful was talking to to a range of people – from medical students, practicing clinicians, but also if possible, people who have taken the medical route and decided to leave the industry. Similarly, reach out to people in other career paths you are considering. It’s always important to get different perspectives and keep an open mind, especially since medicine is a long journey and you need to know what lies ahead of you.

How have you been finding studying at UCL? I absolutely love my time at UCL and I would not have asked for any better. For a bit of context, UCL offers a 6-year program (includes an intercalated year) or a 5-year program (for graduate-entry students). Let me elaborate a little more on some aspects of the university:

The medical program The first two years are pre-clinical years and our program is mainly lecture-centric. I personally prefer this method of teaching, and it was always supplemented by access to live cadaver dissection/anatomy sessions and early clinical exposures. Not to mention, it is very cool to be taught by leading clinicians and researchers in their field, so you are always learning about something based on the most cutting-edge technology/science. Intercalation When I applied, UCL was offering the widest range of BSCs in the country, and I think this may still be the case. My intercalation in Clinical Sciences allowed me to develop important skills such as research and data analysis, debate and presenting. Your BSc will also provide you with plenty of opportunities to present your work at conferences and publish papers! I highly recommend doing a BSc if you are able to do so. Extracurriculars and student life Life in the big city is exciting and has lots to offer for every individual. I personally love going to musicals and museums (with student discounts of course!) during my spare time. There are plenty of lovely eateries to hang out with friends after school as well. In terms of extracurriculars, my big advice is to try new things! Even if you have been a pro at netball in high school, university is the best time to try out different things and learn new skills. It’s a completely safe space to do so, and most of the time, equipment and facilities are heavily subsidised.

"Jaclyn Tan" "Air Ambulance" "Kathryn Chia" "Apothekathryn"
Jaclyn at an Air ambulance shift, which she attained by winning the best clinical poster*

The poster competition was held for both Y1 and Y2 medical students enrolled in the Pre-hospital care & Emergency Student Selected Component1. Jaclyn won this competition when she was in Y1.

1 -Universities allow you to select specific modules every year which allow you to explore your own interests. This is a great opportunity for research work or just getting to know more about a subject. What does a typical day/week at UCL look like for you? As a clinical student, your day varies everyday as you may be allocated to different clinics or wards. A typical day starts with exercise in the morning before making myself a cup of matcha to-go. Wards/clinic sessions begin before 9am (earlier if I’m on a surgical rotation) and can either last for the entire morning/afternoon or for the whole day. At UCL, Wednesday afternoons are protected time for you to do extra-curriculars. After clinics (during COVID time), I head home to get some studying done and attend any scheduled twilight teachings online. During COVID, I find myself having skype work parties with friends, so that we keep each other company during the lockdown! I then unwind by cooking my dinner and showering before going back to work. Evenings are typically reserved for my research work or journalism, but this really depends on the time of year and what my focus is at that point in time! I then destress once again by reading before bed or speaking to my friends and family online.

Is there a field of medicine you are hoping to specialize in the future? I’m currently hoping to pursue a surgical career. I have been wanting to do it since my second year and have had the privilege of shadowing/working with top surgeons in the country. I am also interested in getting involved with health policy and medical innovations, so hopefully I’ll have the chance to dabble in all of it!

"UCL" "Plastic Surgery" "Jaclyn" "Kathryn Chia"
Jaclyn serving as the Plastic Surgery Chairperson for UCL Surgical Society*

She organised UCL's very first national Plastics and Maxillofacial Surgical Conference, which was approved and endorsed by the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS)

Do you have any advice for Aspiring Medical students? It’s never too early to prepare for your medical interviews! Read the typical interview books but try to tailor it to your own experiences and make it more personal. When it comes to the actual interviews, find the opportunity to speak about your areas of interest so you can show the panel how excited you are in medicine! It also helps if you speak to existing medical students, so you know what the university life and culture is like. In addition, don't be afraid to apply to your dream university even if you think the person specifications are beyond you. It is not, and you never know until you try! [Context: I applied for a deferred entry into UCL as I was a year too young. There were only three spots and many people (even my mum) thought I wouldn't get it.] If anyone is interested in applying to UCL, feel free to reach out to me!

What are some things you wish you had known before starting Medical School?

1) It is perfectly normal (and encouraged!) to send cold emails to professors/doctors to get learning opportunities or internships

2) Keep an open mind – to friendships, extra-curriculars, to the various pathways and specialities a medical degree can lead you to

3) Find an activity that makes you feel happy. It is so important to find an outlet to unwind!

4) Make use of student discounts and royalties (e.g travel cards, UNIdays, museum tickets etc.)

If you could do it all over again, would you still have gone to Medical School/ UCL?

Yes! Still can’t see myself doing anything else but medicine, albeit I no longer see myself doing purely clinical work. I would also like to do some policy work and dabble in tech! UCL gives you the opportunity to explore all of your interests and offers so many platforms for you to test your abilities and skills. I have met some of the brightest minds here who have inspired and pushed me to do my very best.

Last words of advice :)

Applying to medical schools can feel very overwhelming; but breathe. You’ve got this! My simple tip is to keep practicing with your peers, teachers etc. for your interviews. Now is not the time to be shy about selling yourself to the panel of interviewers! Also, just wanted to mention that medicine is a long marathon and can be stressful at times. It is really crucial that you find an outlet to destress and have a supportive bubble. You can email me if you want to ask me anything further on UCL applications!

"Jaclyn Tan" "Seven Sisters" "Kathryn Chia" "Apothekathryn"
Jaclyn hiking along the Seven Sisters

Jaclyn can be contacted at


Hello! Thank you for visiting my page

I hope that you enjoy your stay here! Do take a look around and watch this space for more articles.