RUMS Review Neuroscience Edition

UCL Medical School Student Magazine January 2021: Neuroscience Edition

UCL Medical School Student Magazine January 2021: Neuroscience Edition


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V O L . V I I S S U E 1




A G A Z I N E | J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 1



Courtesy of Camilla Siig


RUMS Review Editorial Team


The Team.



Anjana Lakshmi Narasimhan

Niraj S. Kumar


Interviews Editors


Aamina Mahmood

Neera Senthivel


Demystifying Medical

School Editors

Aisha Goplani

Anika Koithara

Features Editors



Henry Spencer

Tharanika Ahillan

Daivi Shah

Yeun Gyeong Woo

RUMS in Lockdown


Em Lloyd

Simran Kazi

Research Editor

Careers Editor

Stephen McWilliams

Srishti Agarwal

News Editors

Ishika Bansal

Sara Moufeed

Shazmen Jan

English Team

Bart Soper

Maria Stoica

Sports &

Societies Editors

Maya Banerjee

Sumayyah Imran


Sponsorship Officer

Finance Officer

Khadija Yaqoob

Shazmen Jan


Design Team

Social Media


Harini Somasekar

Meron Yalew

Uma Patel

Want to contact the team?

Email: rums-review@ucl.ac.uk

Website: https://rumsreview.com/



pg 3



Professor Deborah Gill

pg 5

Meet the Team


President's Note


Somar Albani

pg 6





Niraj S. Kumar

Anjana Lakshmi Narasimhan

pg 8

pg 10

Special Thank You


pg 11






Anca-Mihaela Vasilica

Sean Cavanagh

pg 20

pg 25





A Career's


to Neuroscience


Neurology and






Sheikh Momin

Joan Grieve




pg 29

pg 33

pg 38

Sports & Societies

pg 47


pg 60



RUMS out of Lockdown

pg 66


pg 71


14. Alumnus Feature



Professor Deborah Gill


On behalf of the whole Medical School team, I would

like to wish all our students a happy and healthy start

to the New Year.

2020 has been a year like no other and we are so proud

of you, our colleagues and our communities for

stepping up and looking after each other. With the

vaccination programme now slowly rolling out, 2021 is

looking brighter, but we are not quite there yet and

there may be more difficult weeks and months to come.

Many of you may have been impacted emotionally and practically, but despite this have

remained stoic, resilient and determined to learn in this new environment. You have, as

ever, helped each other and that has been the most heartening thing. Thank you so much

for your patience and understanding this past year.

The New Year will also undoubtedly bring some unique opportunities for you to

contribute to the global effort, with recruitment to the national vaccination programme

getting in full swing. As a GP, I also hope to join in, and I’m sure you will agree it truly is a

privilege to take part in this ground-breaking endeavour which will change all our lives.

Continuing with news of hope, our staff, students and alumni have been working hard on

climate change issues. As well as a new, innovative SSC in Climate Change and Health led

by one of our recent graduates, a group is looking at the curriculum for opportunities to

integrate sustainability teaching. We’re also working with colleagues in the Faculty of

Medical Sciences on wider issues - how we can evaluate our current impact and influence

change across UCL and our partners. This is driven by you and our dedicated staff and

alumni – so really is a team effort and the only way to effect real change. The planet has

been deeply affected by COVID-19 but this is nothing compared to the potential

devastation from climate change if we do nothing.

As always, you continue to inspire us to think differently and challenge the norm, so thank


Please read and enjoy the Review. To the many new students who joined us this year, this

is a fantastic introduction to the wonderful activities and people you will discover in

RUMS and I couldn’t be prouder.

Follow me on twitter @doctordeborah




Somar Albani


It has been just over two months since the

new academic year started and several more

months since the challenges of COVID-19

radically changed our lives. This is a testing

time for the RUMS community. We have

taken advantage of these circumstances by

volunteering, supporting one another, or

simply surviving exams, and continued

thriving with creative community activities

adapted for an age when we must be

spiritually close, rather than physically.

The RUMS Committees have also taken these challenges in their stride and I am

immensely proud of the work we have done together to keep RUMS thriving.

As always, we welcomed our new cohort of almost 400 freshers in September, helping

them settle at UCL and in the RUMS family. Though flagship events like the Scrubs

Party and Boat Ball will be shelved, Niccolo Doe (Events VP) and his team were

instrumental in creating a fantastic new schedule for Freshers and beyond! Our events

continue to be diverse and exciting, from our Talent Show and Freshers’ Circuits to the

new RUMS Discord, which hopefully will be a valued hub for all of us to chill together.

From the MDs Freshers’ lecture going viral (#freeadam) to sports matches within RUMS

and against UCL sister teams, to our RUMS Networks’ activities, our community has

been wonderful as ever. Emily Williamson (Sports & Societies VP) has been an

instrumental link between our societies and the Union, working hard to pull off a

Freshers’ Fair for everyone, ensuring the security and development of all RUMS groups.

As I write, we are finalising means for smaller groups, under the ‘RUMS Networks’

banner, to be better represented under RUMS to the Union. We hope that our

community and demographic networks, from Medics4Medics to RUMS LGBTQ+, may

operate with fewer barriers as possible. Vaishnavi Sabarigirivasan (Operations &

Finance) and her subcommittee have worked so hard in this project, sharing our news

via the RUMS Bulletin, Instagram, and more!

We have been developing better tools for all our societies and breaking new ground on

our charitable activities. By now, our RUMS Facemasks campaign will have launched,

offering a quintessentially ‘2020’ piece of RUMS gear to fundraise for our core

hospitals’ charities, as they need our aid more than ever before.


George Khalil (inaugural Raising and Giving VP) and our newest subcommittee will

spend time in the coming weeks mailing out your purchases in our fundraiser – with

the greatest care taken for your safety! Our community’s charity initiatives have been

wonderful to be a part of: from Movember, to the countless miles run, to

competitions within UCL and across London, it has been brilliant to see how open our

hearts have remained this year!

Anika Koithara and Fady Kamel (Education VPs for Years 1-3 and 4-6) were

phenomenal with our fantastic academic reps. Together, we greatly appreciated your

feedback and represented your honest thoughts during our countless meetings with

the tireless members of faculty in the UCL Medical School. Though the way we

approached our education this year has was greatly altered, we have been fortunate

with the staff’s responsiveness to all our thoughts over the summer to autumn.

Where the circumstances were feasible, we were as flexible as possible in our

approach to teaching and the provision of resources. The sheer power of your voices

on Unitu has made this possible. We are delighted that you have really appreciated

the platform and learnt to use effectively, ensuring your thoughts are heard.

I hope our clinical year students received a Christmas present by now: an expansion

to the Treasure Trove, covering all specialties and ready to receive your submissions.

We hope this partner project with multiple groups in RUMS, including MedSoc and

SurgSoc, accommodates you!

We especially thank our colleagues outside RUMS, such as the BMA and United

Hospitals, with whom we continued working, ensuring our rights are met, especially

this year.

Crucially, taking care ourselves has benefitted our studies, friends and community:

Ayesha Alam (Welfare VP) and her team were our champions here by running weekly

welfare drop-ins, welfare tips on our bulletins, stories and fun events every Thursday!

We appreciated their efforts during the Freshers period when we first introduced

matchmaking to Mums & Dads, rendering the scheme more sustainable and

guaranteeing our freshers close connections with the rest of our RUMS family.

Lastly, leaving behind the second lockdown and our #RUMSTogether calendars,

moving towards the new year, we hope to continue these wonderful developments

for the sake of our RUMS family. We are immensely proud of every contribution

made to our community and we look forward to when we can come together in

person on Gower Street again. Stay happy, healthy and strong RUMS!

With all my RUMS love,

Somar Albani

President of the RUMS Medical Student Association, on behalf of the RUMS

Committee x




Niraj S. Kumar


To echo my predecessor Justina, what a year it has been! RUMS Review has seen an

evolution this year, and completing the first issue we realise that we have come full


Another lockdown, another global disaster, another vaccine, everything seems to be

the same, but also changing so fast. As medical students we seem to be shielded but

all so involved in the thick of it. In this landscape, Anjana and I embarked to complete

this online issue. During this process we engaged with the essence of what it means to

be the RUMS Review. We inherited and have continued the legacy of RUMS Review,

reporting on the News, providing a customary Sports and Societies update, a feature

article and 2 perspective pieces, as well as interviews, careers and more, all on the

theme of Neuroscience. We’ve also been navigating all the hard work beyond the

issue, in terms of finance and sponsorship, reaching out to societies and UCLMS

faculty, all to make sure we live up to the hard task of capturing RUMS’ main


Yet we didn’t want to just write another issue. We have also explored new ventures,

aiming to tackle the bigger issues that we have seen and experienced in Medical

school, such as the changes we’ve seen to the curriculum as a result of BLM or how

COVID-19 has permanently altered the student experience for our freshers.

But it wasn’t just the articles. In this role, I wanted to write something we all cared

about, and it was with this goal that I have been working on several RUMS Review

podcasts surrounding the topic of “things we don’t talk about in medical school”. It’s

taught me that medical school is so much more than the curriculum, the societies, or

any of us – it’s all about the collective experience, and we all have a story to tell.

Which is why I implore you to read the Review with the acknowledgement that these

reports and experiences are much like your own, and that if you do have something

you wish to write, design or speak about on the podcast please reach out. Much like in

research, we can only review after you report your first-hand experiences.



Anjana Lakshmi



Happy New Year from us at RUMS Review! Here’s hoping that 2021 brings with it a

greater sense of normality than the surreal year that was 2020.

We spent Term 1 working hard on this issue with the hope that, when we returned, it

would provide you with some interesting reads. Little did we anticipate that we would

face another national lockdown, seemingly infinite tiers, and a phased-in beginning of

term. However, throughout the path of destruction of the pandemic, we have

experienced RUMS at its finest. Staff and students alike have been deployed to the

front lines or played vital roles in schemes such as Check In and Chat and from the

bottom of my heart, I could not be prouder of our RUMS community.

Despite the rapidly changing circumstances, our incredible team has managed to

deliver some excellent pieces and I would like to thank them immensely for their work.

This issue could not have happened without them. In this new virtual world we find

ourselves in, our design and social media team have also done a fantastic job

transforming the appearance of RUMS Review. For the first years that have joined us,

we hope this issue will provide you with an introduction to RUMS. If there’s anything

that RUMS has taught us, it is the importance of sticking together.

So whether it’s alumni, presidents, or the people of RUMS, it has collectively brought a

sense of calm in the storm knowing that we’re not going through this pandemic alone.

For me, the people that make up the medical school are the best part about it, and we

hope that we are able to showcase this throughout our magazine. The efforts of our

peers to decolonise the curriculum and push for the presentation of health conditions

in different minorities to be included is a testament to our commitment to equal rights.

We have done our best to constantly adapt to the current situation, even hosting our

first ever event. When organising and planning our iBSc talk, little did I anticipate it to

be such a huge success and I hope we’re able to bring you more events in the future.

We plan to see you again in the summer term with another issue, but until then, I

would like to say thank you for giving RUMS Review’s first issue of the year a read and

I wish you a happy and healthy 2021.



The year 2020 was a year for the history books

— we were affected and challenged in so many

different ways. The year also brought into focus

the importance of being appreciative of what

we have - big or small.

A special thank you!


Shazmen By

Without a doubt, one of the most comforting

things for me this year was being part of

UCLMS. Our medical school staff exceeded all

expectations to go above and beyond the call of

duty. From working tirelessly day and night to

adapt all teaching to online formats to paying

sincere attention to our mental health and

taking every issue raised on Unitu, we cannot

express enough gratitude.

You have become our role models in hard work,

discipline and compassion. We are beyond

lucky to have you leading our medical school.

Many thanks,

RUMS Review


By Ishika Bansal, Sara Moufeed & Shazmen Jan



(unless stated otherwise)


‘Check In and Chat’ charity

The Royal Free Charity (RFC) works to support patients throughout their journey – in the

hospital and beyond. They have various major projects that are being developed in the

hospital including the Institute of Immunity and Transplantation, the Recreation Club, and

the Charles Wolfson Centre for Reconstructive Surgery. The Support Hub exists to care

for patients with long-term conditions and their carers. Their work is run by volunteers,

and more recently, medical students as well!

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the RFC Hub quickly identified the need to

support vulnerable people who were becoming increasingly isolated. For those who were

shielding, and for vulnerable people living alone the ‘Check In and Chat’ service was

created to provide a support system.

Approximately 45 volunteers (including some of our own medical students) are involved,

with 25 paired for weekly phone calls. Many of the vulnerable people involved have

underlying health conditions or are elderly, making the pandemic even more frightening.

By providing a friendly ear and a connection to the outside world, these chats are a source

of comfort for isolating people.The volunteers have also been able to help patients with

the challenge of adapting to a more online way of accessing essential services such as

their food and medical teams.

A recent feedback survey collected by the Support Hub highlighted just how rewarding

participating in this project can be. The survey showed that over 70% of volunteers felt

that they had made a difference to someone during these difficult times. If you are

interested in getting involved or learning more about the charity, they are always looking

for volunteers and support!

If you're interested

in volunteering, visit

the Check In and

Chat website




by Post


Srishti Agarwal on behalf of Medics4Medics


This pandemic has defined a new reality. Zoom dinners, online graduations and face masks

have now become our normal. During this time, student loneliness and distress has been

amplified as a result of greater extremes of isolation and detachment. Harmful effects on

student inclusion in the university community have been seen alongside declining mental

wellbeing. A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics even found that over half

the students asked reported deterioration of their mental health and wellbeing over the

autumn term.

The shift to online learning and sharp reduction in face-to-face teaching has undoubtedly

impacted new and returning students alike. For older students, familiar faces that might

have been seen in lecture halls or social events have now disappeared from regular view.

For first years who have not yet had the opportunity to meet most of their year, university

life may quickly become isolating and overwhelming. Without small, positive interactions

that break up the otherwise monotonous academic cycle, it is easy to fall into the trap of

thinking that you’re alone in working to keep up with a degree. The reality is: hundreds of

people are in the same situation as you.

Inspired by Kindness by Post (www.kindnessbypost.org/) — a website and service created

during the COVID-19 pandemic—Medics4Medics (a RUMS peer-based mental health

society) aimed to do all it could to unite UCLMS over the Christmas period. After signing

up, students were randomly allocated to a fellow member of RUMS and could then send

them an (anonymous) message of kindness.

By sending kind messages, it was hoped that students would feel more connected to the

RUMS community. Feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness that come from a lack of

regular face-to-face teaching could perhaps be somewhat mitigated. Though university life

in a global pandemic is far from ideal, unexpected kind gestures can certainly go a long

way in maintaining a new, more grateful normal.


In the wake of the COVID-19

pandemic, the world witnessed the

global community as it gathered

together its forces to deal with the

crisis. Researchers united, sharing data

and resources remotely with the aim of

rapidly developing a cure. Academics

worldwide began to put forward

innovative solutions to the problems

SARS-CoV-2 was causing. A dedicated

team of UCL engineers and clinicians

took initiative and created Project

Courtesy of James Tye

Ventura. The project, in collaboration

with Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, aimed to reverse-engineer an

existing off-patent Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing device.

Project Ventura

From the first meeting to the final manufactured design, the full development process

spanned 100 hours. Developing a functional and effective device in such a rapid

timeframe was made possible only by the team of determined UCL academics working

round the clock along with the contributions of the Formula One team.

Following successful results in volunteer trials the device received regulatory approval and

in April 10,000 devices were manufactured for use in UK hospitals. These CPAP devices

are used to administer oxygen non-invasively and prevent around 50% of critically-ill

patients from requiring mechanical ventilation. The device increases the oxygen content in

the air a patient breathes, enabling them to self-ventilate instead of being sedated whilst

on a mechanical ventilator for 10-12 days. This will allow ventilators (which are in short

supply) to be used only for those who need them most.

The team also decided to share the design and manufacturing instructions online, free of

cost and available for anyone to download. Since then, CPAP files have been downloaded

in 105 countries.

What the engineering team has achieved is no small feat. One of the biggest lessons to be

learnt is the importance of being driven, working hard and having a focused goal in mind.

The success of this project is testament to the power of universities, hospitals and

industry when they come together to achieve a common goal and bring about positive



During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic the number of deaths in care homes was

a tragedy, with at least 30,000 more deaths reported than in 2019. Researchers at UCL

seeking to tackle this issue, created a national study to quantify and understand the

disease in care home residents and staff. This resulted in the Vivaldi Study which was set

up in May. As part of the study, regular tests are taken in care homes across the country

and differences in how they manage their response are then investigated. In November,

the study was expanded to include 4,500 residents and nearly 10,000 staff. This research

is incredibly valuable as it has significant implications for the future management of the

pandemic; hopefully it will help to protect the most vulnerable people in society.

Students and staff at UCLMS have recognised the urgent need to take action locally and

globally for the sake of patients. We are already seeing the disproportionate effect of air

pollution on the health of the most vulnerable in our society, from a rise in skin cancer

cases due to increased UV radiation to the fatal impact of increasingly extreme weather


In response to this, UCLMS has devised a pioneering strategy in the battle against climate

change, which includes launching a new Student Selected Component (SSC) titled ‘Climate

Change and Health’. As the future generation of medical professionals our reality will be

defined by the response to the climate emergency. This SSC provides a unique

opportunity to gain an understanding of the interplay between our changing climate and

the health of our society. Dr Adesh Sundaresen will be leading the SSC. Keep your eyes

peeled if interested!


her, nor her children, nor the operator knew


blue lips looked like on black skin."


Racism & Equality

Equality, diversity, and inclusion are fundamental principles to the UCL Medical School,

yet this is scarcely reflected in the curriculum. We must do more to decolonise it. While

all faculties need to engage in such action, it is of critical importance to medical students

because illness can affect anyone regardless of race or ethnicity.

The medical curriculum needs to be tailored so that it is relevant and appropriate for the

diverse population of patients that doctors see. For instance, during clinical teaching,

students must become familiar with disease presentation in people with a range of skin


The need for a decolonised curriculum has only been exacerbated during the COVID-19

pandemic. A recent article in The Guardian described the harrowing story of a family who

lost their father to COVID-19 in April. His symptoms were getting progressively worse,

but his doctor told him to stay home assuming it was a chest infection. The mother, also

unwell with symptoms, called 111 when her husband had passed. She was asked whether

her lips were blue but as a black woman - neither her, nor her children, nor the operator

knew what blue lips looked like on black skin. Following this upsetting experience, the

family wondered whether their father had been asked the same question and if this was

the reason he had been told to stay at home.

Malone Mukwunde, a second year medical student, recently published ‘Mind the Gap’

with the aid of senior lecturers at St George’s University. It highlights some of the most

common diseases whose presentations vary between skin colours. This informative guide

is an important step in informing our medical practice and ensuring that the care of

ethnic minorities is never compromised.



When confronted with the complexity of understanding dementia, it is easy as

medical students for us to forget to consider the perspective of the patient.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding sufferers and their loved ones cannot be

truly captured by slideshows and words alone. This was the experience of

Hamzah Selim, a 4th year medical student who found his mind boggled in such

a lecture.

Disorientated from facing these complex neuroscience concepts for the first

time, his attention was drawn instead to Snapchat. It was here where the app’s

eye-tracking filters caused Hamzah to consider the power of the iPhone and its

ability to collect data points. More specifically, how this could be used to

diagnose the very illness that his lecture was explaining: dementia.

Hamzah and his team have developed the app Mindset4dementia that screens

for neurological anomalies through the user answering questions and playing

cognitive games. These games focus on detecting subtle anomalies in a

person’s visuospatial awareness, language and communication skills, and their

long and short-term memory. Through playing, a healthy individual can

contribute to a bank of responses which creates data points that are teaching

an AI system to detect early stage dementia which is often missed in


The hope is that this app will allow patients to be diagnosed without even

needing to leave their homes. By recognising dementia at these early stages

through detecting subtleties that only technology can, patients have a chance

to receive life-changing support from the earliest possible moment.

Hamzah says that the app is simply a platform that taps into people’s instinct to

help. If you provide something that is fun and easy to access, which has the

potential to improve patients’ lives, then people will step forward. As we

remain separated from each other through this pandemic, the ability to help

the most vulnerable in our society through a few taps on our phone cannot be

understated. This should motivate us all to download the Mindset4dementia

app from the App Store.



By Shambhavi Banerjee


UK medical students were recently informed of changes to the format of Foundation

Programme applications, in particular the decision to remove the ‘educational

achievement’ score.

This decision was published in a letter dated 30th November, yet review of the change

was held last February. In response to this decision—and the lack of appropriate

consultation of the BMA Medical Schools Council—many petitions have appeared.

When applying to the Foundation Programme, the applicants are ranked using the

Education Performance Measure (EPM) and the weighted situational judgement test

score, each worth up to 50 points. The EPM contains university decile scores, worth 34-

43 points, and educational achievements worth up to seven points. Students then receive

up to five points for an 'additional degree' and one point each for authoring a research

publication, up to two publications.

This application process is typically better understood by those in later years of medical

school, but its impact on additional degrees will affect preclinical students or students

currently undertaking intercalation. These younger students are typically those that feel

apprehensive at the thought of their iBSc—and the associated tuition fees, time, and effort

—not counting for their final foundation placements.

Students frustrated that their iBSc will not count have valid reasons for feeling this way.

Many apply to universities such as UCL with the iBSc in mind, partly due to it offering a

competitive advantage in CVs and future applications. Without this, some students may

feel a lessened sense of achievement; perhaps prompting them to disregard an iBSc and

spend another year in medical school instead. For PhD and graduate students, this may be

more drastic: a PhD and extra degree correlates to significantly more years of hard work

and this should be recognised.

In a letter to UCL students who voiced these concerns, Professor Deborah Gill shared

opinions with the UKFPO that the Foundation Programme should be equally accessible to

all, including to those at medical schools who do not offer an iBSc as part of their course.

There is much more to be gained out of a PhD, extra degree, iBSc, or research than

collecting awards or bonus points.


out more about the UKFPO at:



Secondly, the educational achievement score had a very small overall contribution to

scoring in the application programme. There is an unspoken and destructive impact in the

unhealthily competitive nature of, for example, seeking to be the first author on a paper

that greatly reduces collaboration between medical students and harms the sense of

community that we have.

However, regardless of the concerns that both the UKFPO and individual students may

feel about the application process and their attainment, medical schools and student

unions across the country feel that this decision was abruptly thought through and needs

further consideration before it can be implemented. Petitions have been spread and

endorsed by RUMS, so it is worth waiting to see whether the UKFPO will respond. Above

all, it is clear that the UKFPO has a long way to go in improving Foundation Programme




The Researchers

By Stephen McWilliams


E E T A N C A - M I H A E L A




Anca-Mihaela developed an interest in

neuroscience prior to starting medical school and

competed nationally and internationally in the

subject in 2017. Whilst at university she published

a systematic review on the genetics of familial

gliomas. With a long-term goal of specialising in

neurosurgery, Anca is a member of the Neurology

& Neurosurgery Subcommittee for MedSoc and

SurgSoc and is part of NSAMR and IYNA Journal


I got involved in Neurosurgery


as a first year medical student


When I applied, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The story began before the first

week of university, when UCL Surgical Society was advertising places in Mr Samandouras’

Lab at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square. The

opportunity seemed exciting, so I applied with a personal statement, a half-empty CV, and

little hope. Luckily, I was called for an interview in my second week of medical school – I

missed the first ever Pharmacology lecture thinking “that won’t be a good start”. The

interview went well and I think my eagerness to learn, despite not knowing much at the

time, is what secured my place!

When starting out with this research group, I felt not only overwhelmed as the youngest

member in the lab but also out of my depth in terms of knowledge. I was assigned a topic for

a systematic review, despite not knowing what a systematic review was or how to design a

search strategy. I had to learn quickly, but after a few months of support from the team, I

was on the right track.


One of the more daunting tasks was presenting my research to the supervisor each week,

but I found that my self-confidence grew quickly as I gained experience. The large volume of

reading required was also challenging, but by persevering in this, I have practised many

useful skills for future academia. After a year of work, my research on familial gliomas was

published in 'Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery'.

Following this experience I now appreciate the benefit of getting involved with research as

a medical student. Starting research can seem like a daunting process but for me the crucial

step was defining my specialties of interest and then tailoring my search to relevant


Applying for opportunities early and having experiences related to your area of interest on

your CV will make you a desirable candidate. If you don’t know everything required to

conduct the project then make sure you mention that—emphasizing that you’re focused on

gaining experience and improving your skills!

the most of your opportunities - they will


the door for more!


to get involved in research opportunities


1. Find research groups and apply for a place.


Email clinicians or professors to introduce yourself,

express your interest in their specialty and ask about

projects that you could potentially help with.


Look for collaborative research projects.


Do it yourself/with peers – this approach works

particularly well for reviews or letters to the editor, as

it is difficult to produce original research at this stage.






Sean Cavanagh is a UCL MBPhD student

in his fifth year of the medical programme.

He began his PhD in 2015 at the UCL

Queen Square Institute of Neurology

under the supervision of Dr Steve

Kennerley, Dr Laurence Hunt and Dr

Simon Farmer. His research addresses the

neural mechanisms of decision-making

and working memory, considering the

applications to neuropsychiatric disorders.

Life of an MBPhD Neuroscience Student

Deficits in higher-level cognition and decision-making underlie many neurological

conditions, including schizophrenia, OCD and addiction. These deficits significantly impact

individuals, as well as their families and society, leading to high demand for effective

therapy. Currently, we don’t fully understand the fundamental neural circuits behind these

cognitive processes.

My PhD aimed to move us closer towards medical treatments for these disorders by

advancing our understanding of relevant neural processes found in ‘healthy’ brains. To

study this, I trained animal subjects to perform complex decision—making tasks while

recording the activity of neurons in their prefrontal cortex—a key region in this cognitive

process. With mathematical modelling, I was able to relate the animals’ behaviour to their

neural activity.

My initial studies expand on the concept of spatial receptive fields (a space in which a

stimulus causes neurons to increase their firing rate). I developed the idea of a temporal

receptive field, which is the length of time during which inputs can be combined by a

neuron. My results showed that neurons with longer temporal receptive fields are the ones

more involved in decision computations and working memory.

To verify my findings, I designed a biologically realistic neural network with the same

cognitive mechanism. I simulated the effects of ketamine which is currently the best

pharmacological model for schizophrenia. Upon testing animal subjects with ketamine, I

observed impaired decision-making with the same mechanism as predicted: an increased

inhibition of the prefrontal cortex.


This work provides insights into the neural circuit

dysfunction which is what underlies poor decisionmaking

behaviour in schizophrenia. As a result, this

research could inform drug development. In principle,

we could target neuropsychiatric symptoms through

a drug that could restore the balance between

excitation and inhibition.

My greatest

highlight was

More personally, I thoroughly enjoyed my PhD and

highly recommend the experience. I partook in

unexpected opportunities and, in the process, gained

skills I had not anticipated. These included

experimental design, data analysis and novel surgical


attending the

Society for



My greatest highlight was attending the Society for

Neuroscience’s conference in picturesque San Diego.

I communicated my research through art and San Diego

lectured on UCL's widening participation programme

that aims to reach school children from underrepresented

backgrounds. Most importantly, I worked with an excellent and supportive

team in a stimulating environment where I was challenged daily.

conference in

My best piece of advice when getting involved with research is to find a supportive

environment and work with someone who is going to care about your personal

development. I started as a medical student in an alien scientific world and emerged four

years later an independent scientist.

MBPhD Programme


Have you considered a career in research? Perhaps an academic career is for you? If

so, you may have the determination and commitment required for UCL's MBPhD

programme. During the three year programme, you will have the opportunity to

pursue research with the Francis Crick Institute, the Institute of Child Health,

Cancer Research UK, or many other institutes affiliated with UCL.

Any prospective students must be enrolled in a 5 year medical program in a UK

medical school and have completed two years of medicine (pre-clinical years) as well

as a BSc or intercalated BSc (1st or 2:1). For more information visit


If interested, the deadline for applications is Wednesday 17th February 2021 with

interviews conducted on 18th 19th March 2021.


By Srishti Agarwal



Career's Guide




In line with this issue’s neuroscience theme, Careers is concentrating

on neurology and neurosurgery. From Henry Marsh to Oliver Sacks,

the world of neuroscience continues to capture public imagination.

Though both specialties focus on disorders and injuries related to

the central nervous system, there are key distinctions in their

training pathways.

Becoming a Neurologist

As neurologists tend to see a

broad range of patients, it is

an appealing speciality for

those looking for variety.

Currently, most working

consultant neurologists in the

UK divide their time between

a district general hospital and

a teaching hospital with a

tertiary neuroscience centre.

The unique combination of

physiology and psychology

offers the opportunity to

explore the behavioural and

biochemical impacts to

mental health. The


specialty also places strong

emphasis on academia, so future

neurologists would benefit from

early involvement in relevant


Medical School (5/6 years)

Foundation Years (2 years)

Internal Medical Training (3 years)

Speciality Training (4 years)


Tips Top

Eleanor Wilson - former chair of MedSoc Neurology



medical school neurology

placement: clerk as many

patients as you can.

Everyone's story is different!

Try to gain EXTRA

EXPOSURE to the specialty.

This may include undertaking

a pre- or post-finals Student

Selective Component in

neurology. This will allow

further opportunity for

developing special interests,

research and contacts.

Try to be involved in a


as a literature review. This

opportunity may arise

during medical school or

the foundation years.


field outside of the wards

and labs—London is a

great place for exhibitions

and talks.




neuroscience, neurology

and neurosurgery!

Becoming a Neurosurgeon

From neurovascular surgery to

traumatology, neurosurgery is a

fantastic speciality with a broad

range of sub-speciality choice.

The UK has 34 neurosurgical

units which provide neurology,


neuroradiology, neuropathology




Most consultant neurosurgeons

will have 1-2 outpatient clinics

and 4-5 operations per week.

With emergency work and

unscheduled referrals from

hospitals within the regional

catchment area accounting for

more than 50% of the



neurosurgeons must have the

stamina to cope with the

demanding and often stressful

nature of their job.

As with neurology, there are

plenty of opportunities to get

involved in research alongside

clinical work with neurosurgery

often being at the forefront of

medical and surgical


Medical School (5/6 years)

Foundation Years (2 years)

Run-Through Training (8 years)


*The Academic Foundation Programme enables

doctors to develop research, teaching and

leadership skills and is highly recommended to

those considering a career in neurology or



Tips Top

Axum Gebreyohanes,


Neurosurgery chair of




Neurosurgery — a diverse



everything from brain tumour

resection to aneurysm clipping

to spinal fixation — requires

considerable commitment,

dedication and enthusiasm from

a potential candidate.

Competition for UK

neurosurgical registrar posts is

notoriously high, but a wellprepared

applicant stands a good

chance of success.

It is key to start thinking about

neurosurgery early, preferably in

the first few years of medical

school. The best place to begin

finding out if you are interested

in the specialty is by attending

neurosurgical conferences, talks

and workshops, where you will

get a broad idea of what the

specialty entails. Afterwards,

research projects and audits—not

necessarily in neurosurgery, but

in any neuroscience-related

subject, including neurology and

psychiatry—are very useful to

make a candidate stand out.

Finally, spending time in the

operating theatre witnessing

neurosurgeons at work is

perhaps the best way to glean

practical insight into this

fascinating craft and to establish

whether it is a career path that

appeals to you. The journey is,

after all, long and tortuous yet

highly rewarding.

For more information, visit

these websites:








Neurology & Psychiatry Intersect


Henry Spencer & Tharanika Ahillan





A Happy Marriage?

When patients visit their GP, it’s usually quite easy for their doctor to decide to which

department they should be referred. They have a cough? Respiratory medicine. Some

chest pain? Try cardiology. But what if they have something going on with their brain?

With some brain conditions under the care of neurologists, and others under psychiatrists,

it can certainly cause some confusion. As the boundaries between neurology and

psychiatry get increasingly blurred, we at RUMS Review ask, is now the time for these two

great specialties to become one?

For over 2000 years the Western world did not differentiate between neurology and

psychiatry. Hippocrates theorised that all psychopathology originated from the brain - a

view which persisted well into the 19th and 20th centuries (1). In the 20th century a split

began to emerge between the disciplines, with neurologists working mainly on brain

disorders with somatic symptoms and psychiatrists focusing on disorders of thought and

mood. However, a considerable overlap still remained between these fields; the choice of

whether a condition should be treated under neurology or psychiatry continues to change

and is somewhat arbitrary. The boundary between these disciplines has always been a

hazy one.

Further advances in neuroscience over the past few decades have once again led to a call

for psychiatry and neurology to be understood as one discipline. Writing in the BMJ in

2012, Baker et. al. said that it was now the time to tear down the wall between neurology

and psychiatry (3), an opinion which has gained traction. However, it has not been

accepted by all, and a considerable resistance remains in both fields. Are we now

experiencing a return to unified neuropsychiatry, with the split merely being a blip in the

long unified history of these disciplines?

A marriage of convenience?

For a start, it is now increasingly clear that neurology cannot just be limited to the study of

the nervous system and psychiatry to the social brain and affect. For example, genetic

tests, MRI and PET scans have shown that conditions such as schizophrenia, which many

thought were psychopathological, have neuropathological origins (4). Epilepsy, which was

historically a psychiatric condition, has now fallen under the remit of neurology as its

neurobiological origins became clear. What is to say conditions such as schizophrenia and

autism will not become the same (5)?


The confusion can be seen also in medical journals: just under 5% of papers in the

American Journal of Psychiatry were on meningitis, epilepsy and headaches. Conversely, a

similar proportion in Neurology were focused on schizophrenia, panic and mania (6). Even

medical journals themselves are getting confused with which conditions fit which


It is also clear to see that separating neurology from psychiatry has created a great divide

in which comorbid disorders are under-recognised and untreated (7). Researchers have

found that almost 70% of chronic psychiatry patients had a co-existing neurological

disease (8). Degenerative conditions like dementia, Huntington’s Disease, and MND all

have ramifications that extend into the realm of psychiatry: depression, anxiety and so

forth. There is little to offer these patients in biological and pharmacological therapeutics.

By merging these fields, patients might feel supported in both the management of the

organic problem and the psychological and social burden of their disease. More

importantly, it would mean that patients would not fall between the cracks.

Additionally, psychiatry has historically suffered from being isolated professionally from

other medical disciplines. This is reflected in its funding problems and difficulty with

recruitment (9). Merging psychiatry and neurology and their training pathways would

reduce the stigma and start repairing the reputation of the field of psychiatry (10). Final

year medical student, and former chair of UCL Psychiatry Society, Ahmed Al-Shihabi

agrees and says “I think we could do with a degree of joint training, similar to what is the

case in Germany, where neurology trainees do some time in psychiatry and vice versa”.

Indeed, such an approach might help with recruitment problems, with psychiatrists in

particular reportedly keen on links between neurology and psychiatry (11).

With all this, it’s easy to see that neurology and psychiatry are really only two sides of the

same coin. As Thomas Reilley of the University of Glasgow said in the BJPsych Bulletin,

“nature does not respect our arbitrary categorizations and neither do our patients.” What

better argument is there for the merging of these two fields?

Or an inconvenient marriage?

However, there are problems with psychiatry and neurology becoming more closely

aligned and barriers that have to be overcome to do this.

First we ask: is it too soon for a merger between the specialities to occur? As we have

already outlined, joint training between psychiatry and neurology would be a fundamental

first step towards a merger; however, it would then take many years for these trainees to

take on more senior roles as neuro-psychiatrists. A recognition of this joint training by the

Royal Colleges would be a positive step in further integration between neurology and

psychiatry. Yet there are further institutional barriers to overcome; for example, the very


different skills used in psychiatry and neurology lead different individuals to be attracted to

either field. Such a unification of the two disciplines could affect the intake of doctors into


A further issue with merging the two disciplines has been raised by the American

psychiatrist and professor Ronald Pies. He argues that psychiatry and neurology, “like the

optician and the art critic… are guided by significantly different narratives” (12). This means

that the language used in each field to explain the same phenomena do so in completely

different ways; the narrative of neurology focusing on the objectivity of the brain and that

of psychiatry on patients’ lived experience of the mind. These distinct discourses are a

barrier to communication which would take time to overcome in a new field of


Questions have also been raised about whether a merger would reduce psychiatric practice

to neuroscience, ignoring other aspects of the biopsychosocial model. In 2012 the then

President of the RCPsych, Sue Bailey and her colleagues, wrote that a merger is premature

as “we currently have no unequivocal brain biomarkers for most mental disorders” (13).

They accept that mental illnesses are brain diseases, however, as biomarkers are not widely

identifiable, psychiatry cannot be reduced to neuroscience and integrated within

neurology. This process would be damaging to psychiatry and its patients. Attempts to do

the same in research have also been damaging, as other areas of research struggle for

funding and attention (14). Whilst we wait for neuroscience to (potentially) produce

beneficial psychiatric treatments, patients should not be denied other treatment options

which would help them, purely in the name of a neuroscientific mission.

A final consideration is the possibility of bringing the two disciplines together, with

increased communication between psychiatry and neurology, but with a distinction

remaining between the two. This would override the different dialogues and institutional

barriers to the creation of neuropsychiatry, whilst allowing both disciplines to learn and

benefit from one another in a mutual partnership. It is this approach which may be more

feasible in the short term and be largely beneficial to both specialities.

Our conclusion?

A closer relationship between psychiatry and neurology is a positive inevitability, with

‘clinical neuroscience’ becoming an umbrella term for both disciplines. We are already

seeing greater collaboration between the specialities, particularly in training programmes,

and the potential benefits of this for patients. However, the question remains as to how

far this cross-collaboration will go. Will we see a complete merger of psychiatry and

neurology, and ultimately, would this be beneficial for the professions and their patients?


9. The


By Aamina Mahmood

& Neera Senthivel


Sheikh Momin

National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery (NHNN)


Clinical Fellow

Neurosurgery is a specialty uniquely placed at the

intersection of mind and matter and is often considered

to be a frontier of human advancement. I sat with UCL

alumnus, and current neurosurgery clinical fellow at the

NHNN, Sheikh Momin to discuss what it’s like to be at

the start of his career in this exciting field. Sheikh left

UCL in 2018, having held an impactful position as

President of SurgSoc where he added specialist chairs to

the committee and introduced the shadowing scheme,

ultimately leading SurgSoc to win ‘Most Developed

Society’. He was also involved in UCL Bangla society,

where he organised the hugely successful Roots



possible, it

“There are a lot of reasons why not to do neurosurgery”,

Sheikh begins when I ask him why he chose to pursue his

career. “It’s a very demanding specialty.” For Sheikh,

however, this is outweighed by his passion for both

neuroscience, especially in a clinical context, and the

hands-on surgical work. “You can almost immediately

make a difference in surgical care and I think, for me,

that’s my main motivation”.



what you



Sheikh decided on his path early on. In his second year, he

saw a BBC documentary on neurosurgery involving deep

brain stimulation performed by one of the consultants

with whom he now works. He was instantly hooked by the

extraordinary "subtlety of neurological pathology" and the

profound difference neurosurgeons can make on a

patient’s quality of life. He likens the commitment to

excellence of the neurosurgeons he works with to that of

Michael Jordan in his recent documentary. He says any

medical students interested in the field need to ensure


they know the realities of it, prove their interest by

gaining clinical and surgical exposure, and involve

themselves in research.

Sheikh is most excited by the potential for advancements

in the field. He references image guidance technology,

Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface, the potential to

surgically treat psychological and neurodegenerative

conditions, and artificial intelligence. He also has an

interest in developing medics as people; in a Twitter

thread giving advice for new doctors he encourages

‘meeting people from other walks of life’, recognising

your platform in medicine to help raise others up, and

having a 30 year horizon. For him, this looks like valuing a

work-life balance, and investing in his other passions:

having a tech start-up, doing humanitarian work in

Bangladesh, and starting a YouTube channel about

financial planning for medics. “Anything’s possible,” he

says. “It just depends on what you prioritise.”




is career

As a proponent of widening participation, he urges

medical professionals to always ask “why are there not

more people who look like me here?” He tells me, “if you

have the ability to become a doctor, it shouldn’t be

because you were able to afford private tuition to get into

medical school”. From his experience, this inequality is

pervasive beyond medical school, hindering some, Sheikh

included, from finding a mentor as easily as applicants

from more privileged backgrounds. At UCL he was part of

Target Medicine and has continued this work through

undertaking a Medical Education qualification and using

his position to inspire more medical students to get into


And his final advice for medical students? “Enjoy medical

school and university for what it is. It’s a very unique time

in your life and you should try to grab any opportunity

that you have. Thinking about your career is important

but don’t let that detract from enjoying the experience.”


don't but

that let






Thank you so much to Sheikh for taking the time to speak

to me. If you’re interested in neurosurgery and want to

learn more, he is happy to arrange a visit to NHNN. For

more information, please get in contact with the RUMS

Review team.


Meet Joan Grieve

Consultant Neurosurgeon

I can remember sitting

for six hours watching

operation and just was

Henry Marsh do an

completely transfixed

Courtesy of NHNN

the whole time

...Miss Joan Grieve says, reminiscing about her time as a medical student. She's just

finished her virtual clinics for the day from home; COVID-19 has changed the way she

works. She missed the patient contact, especially during the initial weeks of the pandemic;

for Miss Grieve, being a surgeon is just as much about the personal skills as it is the

technical skills. Miss Grieve has been working as a consultant neurosurgeon at National

Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery (NHNN) since 2002. Her specialties include

pituitary procedures, neurovascular treatments, and neuro-oncology.

“I didn’t really have any great aspirations in terms of medicine,” Joan says about growing

up. Her family were not medics, nor did a future in medicine cross her mind until her

secondary school teacher encouraged her to apply. When she began her studies, she had a

rough idea of what a GP did but knew nothing about hospital doctors. It was during her

neurology rotation at St. George’s that she got a taste of life as a neurosurgeon and was

immediately transfixed by the specialty and inspired by the people she encountered.

She says that students should start thinking about possible specialities to pursue while

studying but not to put all their eggs in one basket. It was not until her neurosurgical SHO

job that she felt certain she wanted to commit. Now that the training programme is more

rigid, she says “it is about being very broad – about being able to put at least something

into every single box”.


Joan started at NHNN working in research as a junior registrar, before working her way up

to consultant level. She says, “It’s a tight-knit community… they know you on a very

personal level”. In some house jobs she felt anonymous, but at NHNN she feels a part of

the hospital and built lasting friendships. According to the Royal College of Surgeons in

2018 only 11.1% of consultant surgeons, whereas 58% of medical and dental students

were women.

Asked whether neurosurgery could do more to recruit women, Joan says that she hopes

the number of women in training and at consultant level across all surgical specialties will

rise. She says surgical training programmes should be more flexible and adapt to the fact

that staff have families, children, and lives outside of medicine.

Though neurosurgery involves a considerable effort to halt patient’s conditions from

deteriorating, Joan is often able to help patients recover as well. “I give people back their

eyesight, I cure them of their endocrinology conditions... As a consequence, they are a

very grateful group of patients”.

give people back their eyesight


At its core, she does this job because, like every doctor, she wants to make people better.

I ask Joan about how she deals with the emotional toll of tragic cases when the patient is

disabled, or even killed by a neurosurgical procedure. Having a life outside of medicine is

key, and Joan says that she sometimes struggles with separating work from her personal

life. “I take all of my annual leave… go to remote places, offgrid to switch off”. She says it

stops her from thinking about work or checking emails.

Neurosurgery is a beast of a specialty; it is very demanding both technically and mentally.

The patient contact is what Joan loves about it, as well as the collaboration with

colleagues and the changes you can make to patients’ lives. The training programme has

changed and is more competitive than what she went through, but she emphasises how

important it is to have a broad set of skills, especially interpersonal skills. In summing up

why she loves neurosurgery, Joan gets at the very essence of medical practice: “I really

enjoy taking patients along their journey”.



Medical School


By Anika Koithara

and Aisha Goplani





Our Demystifying Medical School team, Anika Koithara and Aisha

Goplani, had the opportunity to sit down and have an informal

chat with our last two RUMS Presidents, Yousif Ali and Somar

Albani. Have a read to see what we found out:

Anika: What was your favourite moment as


Yousif: My favourite moment, that’s quite a

hard one. Okay so, Freshers. Freshers was

really fun! I think planning the boat party

— that was kind of the peak of Freshers

and seeing all of them actually get

involved was great. Obviously we had

spent a long time over the summer

planning it, so it was really nice to see how

it all came to fruition. People actually came


enjoyed it and had fun. It was like, look

this is what we had as freshers, and now I

can deliver it as President with my

committee to new first year medical

students. So it was a nice complete cycle

to see that, and it's heartwarming to see

because it's like, you know, when I was a

first year like, wow, how do they plan it

they’re only students and how do they do

all this?! Then now you’re like - oh wait,

we can do the same. So that was really



One of my other favourite moments was

probably releasing Unitu. So that was

really fun to speak to students in Freshers

week, especially the first years, to

introduce the platform and tell them what

it’s all about. It was really nice to see

people use Unitu. I really loved when

students started posting on there, it was

so satisfying to see. I enjoyed seeing

people putting it to good use.

What made you think to develop Unitu as

a platform?

It was kind of a chance thing to be honest.

I was chairing an SSCC meeting and

afterwards one of the admin staff came up

to me and told me about a leaflet from the

Computer Science Department. This

leaflet was from Unitu and had generated

a whole summary of the year. I spoke to

Dan and George at the time, because Dan

was President and George was Education

VP Yrs. 4-6. They were like, “this looks

nice”. I arranged a meeting with Unitu. It

was Bruno at the time, and he showed me

the platform and gave me a tour as well.

I thought it would be perfect for us

because it's basically online social media

for feedback. It seemed good, so I said let’s

go for it. The medical school was very

supportive, got involved and led it as well.

It was definitely a student-medical school

led project. It was very nice to see us

working together on that: getting it up and

ready, training the reps and everything

else that went into it.

Somar: A lot of my favourite moments

have definitely been in and around the

Freshers period. One of the most difficult

events to sort of make work was the

RUMS Freshers Fair, because we

essentially had to move everything to an

online platform which had to cater to all of

our volunteering networks and so on, in a

way that also worked well with UCL and

all the official sports and societies.

So I think the day we finally ran that

Freshers Fair and managed to get

everyone in one place. Essentially, it felt

really nice, considering all the work we had

to put in and all the plans that had to

change along the way to sort of get it to


We were able to introduce our freshers to

all these awesome communities within the

greater RUMS community, you know, so I

think that was really awesome. I think in

Freshers week itself we did so much

together as a community. Literal months

of preparation went into making things

work, in a way which was workable in the

middle of a pandemic.

I think considering everything and

considering the results, especially the

response we got from the freshers in the

live talks, offline and our private messages

and so on and so forth. I just felt like I was

buzzing. I just had this great feeling, you

know, that we managed to do it. We’d

been able to pull it off.

The most important thing was that I knew


that I wasn't doing it alone. I was doing it

with an amazing team of people such as

our Pre-Clinical, Clinical, Welfare, Events,

Sports and Societies VPs, and of course,

everyone pulled their weight. We all

synergised so well and managed to create

something beautiful.

Another highlight was definitely getting

Mums and Dads to work this year; not just

work but we also improved it. We made it

a lot more personalised. We did these

surveys between the second years and

first years, so we could pair parents and


So this created firstly smaller families,

which was more intimate. And secondly,

by doing it this way, we could guarantee

that there would be some common ground

in every single family upon which you

could build a more long lasting

relationship. We had put in a lot of work

behind the scenes to make that work, and

of course no first time is perfect, but we

came out of it feeling happy.

I'm really looking forward to seeing it being

built upon by future committees and

future years. Especially because it was one

of the big things I did want to achieve this

year and it just felt so nice being able to

check that off the list. So yeah, exciting

year so far. There's definitely a lot more in

the works, which I wish I could talk about

at this stage.


Aisha: What inspired you to make the

Treasure Trove?

Somar: There was no master plan really, it

just went along, and it just grew into

something useful over time. So it started

with me essentially, as I had a good

amount of resources I got from people. But

every now and then I’d hear about this

new thing. And I was like, “Oh, what if that

is much better than what I already have?”

The Trove just had

So over the summer. I took the time to

clean up the Google Drive. I created the

first ‘directory’, which was supposed to be

a dump for website links, but then it

evolved into what turned into a guide.

I think that's what was important: that

someone experienced was sharing

something for the next year. From that it

just grew into something bigger and bigger.

Now we have covered the entire preclinical

years and maybe someday in the

future, it might further colonise clinical

territory as well. We’ll have to watch this


bit of what I


in the people


around me, which

The Trove just had a bit of what I value in

the people around me, which is the

benevolence, the charity to give, and by

giving, you make something beautiful,

something which means that everyone is

better off.

is the benevolence,

the charity

Then I realised it doesn’t really have to be

that way. Let me just put it on Google

Drive, share it with a couple of mates in a

group chat I was in and ask them to

contribute a few things.

Then they contributed a few things. And

then I was like, “well, why don't I share it

with the year-group?” So by that point, I


started thinking more seriously about it

and thought this could be something more


The concept of equality of access is the

core tenet of the Treasure Trove. It's also

something which, I think, has been the

recipe to the Trove’s success and

especially the reason why so many people

talk about it, love it, use it regularly and of

course contribute to it year after year.

Overall, I'm really, really happy with the

way Trove turned out and I just hope it

continues to be something that helps

people every single year.

Continues on next page >>


Aisha: You hear these stereotypes about

medical school being this cut-throat

competitive environment and The Trove is

such a nice way of breaking that stereotype.

Somar: Yeah, I agree. Honestly, and it

doesn't just break the stereotype, I hope it

forges a new stereotype. Because after all,

doctors are meant to be a part of a

multidisciplinary team right? So Trove is

good evidence that we can and will work


Yousif: I think Somar’s right. I think what's

quite amazing about the community at

UCL, and RUMS in general, is that there's

so much support for the younger years by

the older students.

You see loads of tutorials happening -

whether it be a Medsoc, Anatomy Society

or through the sports clubs. Everybody's

trying to teach something, trying to help

people and give resources and share tips

and support each other because

everybody's been there before, and trying

to make sure that people aren’t struggling.

We create our own safety net for each


Anika: What do you think makes RUMS

unique compared to other UCL societies?

Okay, so, I think it's basically because

RUMS is a big family. What a lot of people

are amazed by is how such a big cohort

and year group stays so much like a


community: so in contact with each other

so supportive of each other and so in

touch with each other, knowing each

other’s difficulties and needs, just knowing

where they're at.

I think that's because we do have a RUMS

community and we do have our own union

and support networks. Somar’s doing that

brilliantly this year, with the whole online

initiative 'RUMS Together' and creating a

Discord. We have so many ways of

communicating, whether it's Facebook,

Instagram, Unitu, and now Discord. There

are so many ways of staying in touch with

everyone else—it feels like you’re not

alone. You should never feel like you’re

alone in RUMS.

fact that we have this community in the

middle of so much more - in the middle of

the UCL community.

I describe ourselves as a bubble within a

bubble. The fact that we can still exist,

coexist and synergise with bigger bodies

like UCL is something so beautiful. So you

can be a part of RUMS and still have pride

for UCL at the same time. I think that's

amazing. This is not just with Student

Unions. It’s also being able to speak so

openly with the Faculty at the UCL

Medical School. Not just as Reps, but just

any individual. This is aided in part by

Unitu and by the fact that the Medical

School Faculty are really approachable as

well and do care for us.

So that’s what makes RUMS unique: the

supportive environment and the

community spirit.

This is helped by the fact that lots of them

used to be UCL medical students as well. I

think that really gives RUMS that special

edge - to not just survive but thrive.

we have this living,

Aisha: What is one piece of advice that

you’d give yourself in first/second year?

breathing community

which loves itself and




Somar: I couldn’t agree more. Honestly,

the only thing I'd add to that is that it's not

just the fact that we have this living,

breathing community which loves itself

and constantly nourishes itself, but the

Yousif: It will be okay and things will work

out. I know at times things can be

overwhelming and you’ve got five lectures

you’re behind on and you still haven’t

touched anatomy, but it’s important to

remember things will come together in the

end. Medical school is hard, but you have

to be able to work through it bit by bit.

You have to think of it like building a

house, first you need the foundation, and

then you can build it up brick by brick. The


first two years are supposed to be fun!

Find your balance between work and play.

Use this time to find your friends and

support network for future years. Engage

with the different opportunities UCL

offers as it’ll lead to other doors being

opened and help you develop as a person.

Somar: I wish I had the gift of hindsight. I

wish I knew it would all be okay. I wish I

knew I wasn’t alone in being

overwhelmed. Medical school is hard and

it's not something you have to bear alone,

you’re part of a 300+ cohort, you’re a

community bearing this burden. Another

thing, work together! It’s so effective and

makes you feel so much more supported

and makes you a better person.

Aisha: What was the biggest adjustment

you had to make coming from year 13 to

first year university?

Yousif: As I’m from Nottingham, not seeing

as many trees, haha! No seriously, being

more independent and responsible for

your own learning. I realised after my first

term I needed to be more proactive in my

learning as it’s different to school where

you’re spoon-fed the information. But at

university, the lectures are there to give

you an introduction to the topic, but you

yourself need to delve into it and do more

work in order to understand it better.

Somar: For me personally, I had to learn to

be more organised. I struggled to be

organised and left so many notes

unfinished and so much stuff untouched. It

took me so long to find out how to

effectively manage my workload. To this

day I still struggle, but this forces me to be

more disciplined with myself. My advice

with that is definitely break big mountains

into small bricks. Write to-do lists and

check things off as you go along, it gives

you a good feeling inside! It sounds so

simple but it definitely transformed the

way I worked.

Another big thing is that things at uni are

constantly changing and remaining

adaptable is key. From the strikes last year

to the pandemic in current times, it’s

important to take any sudden changes and

keep a positive mindset. That way you can

stay ahead and keep your head above the

water no matter what happens. Especially

in medicine, you need to be adaptable, and

with that mindset you can overcome

challenge after challenge, either on your

own or, more preferably, as a team.

Aisha: How did you balance being RUMS

president and keeping up with medical


Yousif: It’s hard to explain, but if you have

something to do, you won’t waste as much

time. So the more things you have

planned, you’re forced to cut down on the

procrastination. I look at it like: you can

make time for things you want to make

time for. It’s all about considering your

priorities and planning your day in advance

to make sure you are keeping up with

things. And it’s really hard to do that! I

haven’t even mastered it yet, but the first


step you can do is address your


Somar: What Yousif just described

reminded me of something I learnt over

the summer called Parkinson’s Law. This is

where if you give yourself, for instance, a

day to go over the notes from one lecture,

you will spend the whole day on it. But if

you only give yourself let’s say, 90

minutes, you’ll get it done in that time

period. It’s because subconsciously there’s

a sense of urgency to get it all done so you

can relax at the end of the day, and so you

cut out all the fluff, such as checking your

phone every five minutes.

That brings me onto my second point: the

best way to be productive is to think longterm.

You can’t just work, work, work. You

need to set aside time to rest, and that

was one of my biggest mistakes. I

overworked myself and never ended up

having time to spend with friends or

family. To overcome that I made sure I

stopped doing all work-related activities at

a certain time like eight in the evening.

Yousif: I agree! People aren’t perfect and

it’s important to remember we all have

challenges with time-management and

organisation. But all you can do is

constantly remind yourself to stay on top

of everything you have to do, learn on

your feet and slowly build your skills up.


& Societies

By Maya Banerjee and Sumayyah Imran



(unless stated otherwise)


RUMS Music

RUMS Music President Nafisa Barma is full of love and enthusiasm for her society. “It’s my favourite

society,” she smiles, “I think everyone’s really nice!”

The society is quite relaxed, with most of its ensembles non-auditioned. “It’s just something fun for

people to enjoy,” says Nafisa.

Remote music has proven a challenge and Nafisa has had to manage more extensive admin than in an

ordinary year, but still, she feels the society is doing well. “Fresher interest has been really good this

year,” she tells me happily.

The ensembles worked to put together a Freshers’ Showcase at the beginning of the year, and it’s

wonderful that it has paid off!

Since the second lockdown, some groups have been holding online rehearsals, which has required

some troubleshooting. “These don’t work as well, but they do work!” remarks Nafisa.

Fortunately, some great Zoom socials organised by the committee are allowing members to stay

connected. Events have included a Taskmaster-style social and an arts and crafts afternoon, which

speaks to the society’s relaxed approach.

Nafisa’s message to freshers is to join at least one society: “I think it’s important to give RUMS a go,

because it’s been a really big part of my life in med school.” And of course, she invites freshers to join

RUMS Music!

Lockdown didn’t get these cool kids down. An insider reports that they’re hard at work preparing an

Easter show to be revealed at the end of March. Keep your eyes peeled!


To sustain them during social isolation, an innovative online chess club was set up and trialled, and

upon its resounding success opened up to the rest of RUMS.

What else, we hear you ask? They next held an in-club ‘Eurovision’ song contest on the last Friday of

November which involved the creation of a satirical bop and accompanying music video in the style of

your respective country. I can only imagine the ‘absolute scenes’.

Following a streamed lecture for first years, a joke taken out of context led to widespread confusion

regarding the conduct of a supposed junior doctor towards an outspoken fresher. A clip in which Adam,

a member of the club posing as a fresher on the call, was told to face the wall by the ‘lecturer’, who was

in reality a fellow member of the MDs, was leaked and put up all over the internet.

MDs President Josh Brandon reacted to how they all felt going viral: “In absolute disbelief! None of us

were expecting it—we saw the video on Twitter when it had a few thousand views and then suddenly

millions of people across the internet had watched it. We made some beautiful “Adam face the wall” T-

shirts for us to proudly wear, but apart from that, we mostly spent our time on damage control trying

to spread the word that it was just a joke...tons of people believed it was real and were naming and

shaming UCL!”

All’s well that ends well; everyone involved appreciated the very specific humour of UCL medical

students. In these strange times, laughter may still be the best medicine.


on: MedSoc Research and Academic


Research Mentoring Scheme


Preclinical students’ first attempts to break into research are often riddled with anxiety and

unanswered emails. That’s what Telma Viveiros and Xinrui Ma from the Research and Academic

Medicine (RAM) branch of MedSoc have set out to fix with their newly established Research

Mentoring Scheme.

Xinrui’s first foray into research began in her first year of medical school. “I knew I wanted to get

on to the Academic Foundation Programme,” she tells me. However, she felt very daunted by

the prospect of contacting academics of such high seniority to arrange a project. “Often it’s the

fear of rejection, the fear of contact with someone who’s superior to you, at a higher

consultancy, that puts you off,” Xinrui says. Telma agrees. “I think everyone knows how to write

an email, it’s just a matter of confidence and knowing that your email is okay,” she adds. The

situation is such that the first and most critical step in acquiring a project eludes many students

purely due to fear and a lack of guidance.

This is where the Research Mentoring Scheme comes in. As part of the scheme, preclinical

students are allocated to mentors with research experience. Mentors are in their iBSc year at

least, and their roles are to assist mentees in contacting supervisors, and potentially to support

them with their project work down the line. Students who secure projects will be asked to

present their work during the next academic year. The aim is to provide students with their first

insight into research and help them get their foot in the door.

When I ask about the challenges that have been encountered in the development of this

scheme, the main reply is entirely predictable. “Coronavirus,” Telma laughs, before explaining the

consequential unavailability of lab projects. “It may be harder than it usually is to get a

placement, or there may be more literature reviews available than actual lab projects,” she says.

Nevertheless, both her and Xinrui are holding out for the reopening of labs to students this

summer to facilitate projects. Aside from this, Telma expresses concerns about the lack of

interest from first years. Fortunately, one of the aims of RAM is to guide students in this respect,

and people who need advice can get in touch.

The allocation process for this year is now complete, with 15 mentors and over 20 mentees.

Now, the responsibility will fall on the mentees to be proactive in contacting researchers. Telma

and Xinrui will be monitoring the usefulness of the scheme through surveys and emails. “It’s kind

of a trial year,” says Xinrui. The future of the scheme will be dictated by student response this

year; whilst Telma and Xinrui hope it will prove beneficial, they are open to discontinuing it if

this is not the case.

“To be honest, I don’t know how successful it will be in terms of bridging students into research,”

admits Xinrui, “but I guess it’s a way, even if it’s not successful, to bring students in the different

years together.” To Telma, this sharing of senior students’ knowledge and skills is especially

important now given current social restrictions. Her message to students looking to get involved

in research is not to worry. “We understand how difficult it actually is to get into research and

that it is okay to feel like it is difficult, but everyone can do it if you really commit to it.”


RUMS Sport

Update from RUMS Cricket President Nikhil Patel

Despite the challenges of 2020, our great committee was still able to put on some events

last term. We ran our net sessions every Tuesday. These used to take place indoors at Lords,

but due to the restrictions, we decided that it would be more suitable to move our training

outside. Luckily, we found an outdoor facility that is covered by a roof. We also moved our

indoor competition (RPL) outdoors.

RUMS Cricket

As well as this, we play an intra-club competition on Wednesdays called the RUMS Premier

League. The club is split into four teams and everyone gets involved in some friendly

competition. For the first time, we set up beginner sessions where we coached people who

haven’t played cricket at all. It's been great to see them develop.

But we have had to control numbers at all the events, and it’s difficult turning people away

from playing the sport they love. We were worried that people may drift away from the club,

but we have been extremely lucky with one of our biggest fresher intakes in recent memory.

We are quite a close-knit club, and we are all staying connected through FB group chats, an

active Instagram page (@rumscc) and Zoom socials!

RUMS Men's Football

Update from RUMS Men’s President Gulzar Dhanoya

It’s been a difficult term to say the least, but lockdown did not break the spirits of RUMSFC’s

strong men. Fresher interest has been phenomenal. We’ve got a fresher called Ian who

doesn’t look like an Ian, alongside many other young talents. Even without the promise of

regular football training, the freshers have remained committed to the cause and no one has

yet to ask for a refund on membership, which is promising.

We revolutionised our Movember fundraising campaign this year by bringing in the public. In

exchange for a donation, they could choose painful and humiliating forfeits for us. These

varied from eating chillies to running 7km (under eight pints) to dipping in the Thames.

These, among many other noble efforts from the lads, managed to smash our fundraising


Several boys/men of RUMSFC are now volunteering on the wards and ITU due to the crisis,

with many signed up to be vaccinating the public this year. Yet again, when the NHS and the

people need the strong, powerful minds of RUMSFC, they oblige. We are your servants. We

love you. You love us. I love us. Happy New Year.


Update from RUMS Netball President Olivia Hammond

From the beginning of term until national lockdown, we’ve been running in-person training for

our returning and new members both indoors and outdoors. Taking into account that we have

no fixtures this term, we decided not to run trials and team selection. We felt this would

encourage more people to give netball a go as the focus this term was on getting everyone

involved! We were also able to run some friendly matches with UCL Netball to give our

members more of a ‘match’ option, since our normal competitions aren’t running.

RUMS Netball

We have been running our weekly socials online from the start of term, which have continued

through lockdown. We have introduced a variety of different socials, such as our Book Club,

which provides more of an option to chat and catch-up with other members. We are also

really active on our socials, @RUMSNetball, and have a ‘Member of the Month’ running to

keep our members up to date with what everyone is doing!

A memorable experience for me was our taster session. We hadn’t done anything like it

before and were really unsure about logistics and how many people would be interested. But

we had over 70 people come to our taster session on the day. For most of us, it was the first

time we had been in larger groups since March, so it really turned into a great day and was a

wonderful opener to our 2020/2021 year!

Update from RUMS Women’s Football President Molly Robertson

Luckily football was one of the sports least affected by social distancing, although usually we

have hundreds of fans at our matches who have to support us from home now. We started

early this year with a month of pre-season for our 1s team, before kicking into our regular

training with the whole club. This helped to prepare us for taking part in the UCL League held

this term against UCL WFC, we drew 2-2 (UCL Bs) and 3-3 (UCL As). Our 1s captain managed

to buy kid-sized nets ahead of our first game, which unsurprisingly did not fit the full-size


RUMS Women's Football

During lockdown we had weekly virtual socials, where we did quizzes, played games or, just

chatted. We also had some online fitness sessions and paired up as "buddies" to meet up and

do some two-person socially distanced football to help support everyone. It’s memorable

attempting to do virtual sports night circles - it's very confusing. Fresher interest has been

amazing considering the difficult situation a lot of students are in. Our freshers have been

really dedicated, playing in our matches and attending training every week, as well as getting

involved in our online socials.

A big achievement for us this term was the RUMS RUNS charity run, which we organised.

RUMS Netball, Women's Hockey, and the MDs all took part, helping to raise over £1000 for

Black Minds Matter and Southall Black Sisters.


on: Peer-led teaching




For many of us, peer-led tutorials are a significant part of our medical school

experience. I spoke to some of the people behind these schemes to learn

more about their impact and importance.

I asked the education leads about their motivations. Vikram Thirupathirajan,

Surgical Society’s Education Officer, and Tricia Lim, Medical Society’s Clinical

Education Lead, both attended past tutorials, and, pursuing their interests in

teaching, got involved to give back. Vikram also highlighted that SurgSoc’s

involvement helps them to improve awareness of surgery within RUMS.

Sumayyah Tahsin and Maya Baroudi, the I&D leads for RUMS Islamic Society

(ISoc) Academics, have similar motivations. “When I was approached to be a

lead in Y2, I was more than happy to help new students benefit similarly,”

Sumayyah explains. For the ISoc leads, part of the motivation comes from

fulfilling the Islamic principle of helping others, which the tutorials extend to

students of all backgrounds.

Tutorials require more work than meets the eye; content creation is just as

important as logistics, so the workload is hefty. As Hadiya Golamgouse, the

Anatomy Society tutorial lead, puts it, “It’s easy to criticise, but not so easy

to fix.” She’s working with her three-strong subcommittee to expand

tutorials and develop new material, and felt she’d undergone a lot of

personal growth. Anatomy Society collaborates with SurgSoc, who also work

with MedSoc ClinEd on the mOSCE series. Vikram finds this advantageous

as it allows tasks to be allocated efficiently.

Previous work has also created a strong foundation for these programmes.

Raian Jaibaji and Annie Choudhury, the first year anatomy leads for ISoc

Academics, were very complimentary. “It’s nice that we can use the older

years’ slides,” says Annie. Raian praises the smooth workflow: “the

organisation is incredible.”


The subcommittees appear to have great working relationships. Maya says she

feels very supported; “if I have any questions, I can ask the Y3 students.

Everyone’s really helpful.” Vikram told me that he has fun working with his

subcommittee. He also says that he enjoys the collaborative environment of the

wider SurgSoc committee; “It’s interesting to hear everyone’s ideas.” Tricia is

very grateful for the effort and enthusiasm of her subcommittee, extending her

thanks to MedSoc President Anastasia Chajecki and to her collaborators in

SurgSoc, RUMS, and the faculty.

Tutorials play different roles at different stages. Tricia describes MedSoc

ClinEd’s sessions as complementary; they offer exam guidance whilst official

teaching provides clinical knowledge. MedSoc’s case-based tutorials have gained

newfound importance recently, having virtually replaced cancelled case-based


Preclinical tutorials are aimed more towards revision, and offer a relaxed

atmosphere for discussion. “Sometimes you may not feel comfortable

approaching a teacher,” says Annie. Raian agrees; “The best person to ask is

often a medical student…we can tell them what they need to know.” From her

attendance of past tutorials, Hadiya recalled the pervading “community spirit of

confusion” and her subsequent progression from “cluelessness to confidence.”

Whilst she was unsure if this could be replicated in an online setting, she felt it

was a privilege to have this impact.

These programmes are all driven by academic interest and a strong bond of

community, handed down from year to year. “It’s so weird how quickly the

tables turn,” reflects Raian. "It’s a manifestation of everything I’ve come to

admire about RUMS: how supportive and nurturing we are and how infectious

that spirit is."

As Hadiya told me, tutorials are an unparalleled opportunity to benefit from

senior students’ experience, and the positive feedback across the board is a

testament to how useful the sessions are. If you’re interested in teaching, there

are plenty of opportunities to get involved, so keep an eye out for tutor requests

from societies!


Spotlight on: Heartstrings

I met Daniel Ly and Anji Zhang, the managers of RUMS Music’s string ensemble

Heartstrings, and Josh Ferreira, a fresher, on Zoom. None of their enthusiasm was

dampened by the screen between us, an enthusiasm which for Josh had almost

entirely been instilled through online interactions. “It’s like a family,” he grins. I’m

inclined to suspect that he might have been paid off by Daniel and Anji, as he

gushes with praise throughout the interview. However, I decide that with the

current recession this must be a genuine representation of how he feels, which

shows me how welcoming and supportive the Heartstrings community is.

Daniel has been managing the group for the past two years, and it’s been important

to him to create a relaxed environment; “for medics there’s so much pressure to be

at the top in everything you do, which can become quite a toxic mentality.

Heartstrings is a way to combat that by providing a space where you can just do

something that you enjoy.” Anji agrees. “I just enjoy playing music. There's not a lot

of opportunity or time at university, but for Heartstrings you just show up and play

without feeling pressured or having to invest too much time.”

Daniel is also keen to shake some of the more negative associations of classical

music: “I don’t think that music has to be anything apart from something that makes

people happy.” That’s why they explore a variety of musical genres, from classical

to pop, the songs from Shrek are not off-limits either.


The group is also open to their members’

suggestions. Josh tells me how impressed he was

when Anji and Daniel procured the music he’d

recommended within a week of his suggestion.

“Peek behind the curtain: we already had that

music,” admits Daniel. “When I became manager, I

did a massive dig for music to collate a master

folder that hopefully will be handed down to future

years,” he reveals, much to Josh’s dismay.

The group has managed to devise a system for

online rehearsals involving one person leading and

the others playing along with them. The sessions

have their amusing moments. “Sometimes you see a

really high note and stare at the screen trying to

figure out what it is. Everyone is like, is he still

leading?” laughs Daniel. “Or scrolling down a 20-

page piece of music,” Josh adds, “every couple of

lines there’s a bit of a pause. But we get through it,

it’s fun. And we’re not taking ourselves too


don’t think


music that

to be has


Daniel, Anji and Josh are all pining for a return to

live music. “I can't wait to play in person,” says Anji.

She also reflects on how rehearsals can’t be truly

captured online; watching people mumble notes

and drop their bows in frustration when practising

live is something Zoom just doesn’t encapsulate.

Josh recommends that I listen to Tchaikovsky’s

Nutcracker Suite; “It's literally the most perfect

score ever written. We're playing one of those

pieces, so imagine how good it will sound with us all

in person.” He also jokes that he hasn’t met anyone

in the flesh. “I could be 6’10, I could be 4’1" he


from apart


makes that



Daniel’s planning on playing a medley of Studio

Ghibli pieces. “The opportunity to play something

so dear to my heart in this pretty nice space is

something that hopefully can happen!” Let’s hope it



Spotlight on: RUMS Badminton

We (virtually) sat down with this year’s RUMS Badminton President, Tanya

Sharma, to find out more about what this underappreciated racquet sport has to


The biggest, friendliest club in RUMS?

Tanya has been busy, what with her daily Pret runs and reading for her medical

anthropology iBSc. And badminton, of course. This third year looks very different

from normal in these unprecedented times, but at least Badminton seems to be doing

okay. Although she does say that they’ve had their fair share of unpredicted obstacles,

these are being dealt with, and the club is thriving.

sums up the club.


can do both - play


serious sport and





Last term, keeping track of every person who attends every training session was a

challenge. Members need to notify the club if they test positive or are required to

isolate, and this has to be communicated to everyone else they came in contact with.

Apart from this, things seem to be running smoothly.

In-person badminton-playing went ahead for a while, but their social slot at the Royal

Free was tragically taken away. There is a silver lining, in that team and social players

are able to interact and get to know each other. If anything, the club is becoming even

more harmonious as the divide between competitive and ‘fun’ badminton is blurred.

Sadly, the team is no longer training for inter-university tournaments, but, excitingly,

the club has joined other RUMS Sports and Societies in ‘Blue January’—they have

pledged to exercise daily in order to beat the January Blues and raise money for mental

health provisions. They have already well exceeded their £100.00 target for donations,

and at the time of writing they were only fifteen days in.

I asked for any memories from previous tours. With misty eyes she recounted last

year’s pre-club activity—bouncy castle/obstacle course plus sumo-wrestling suits in a

kid’s playground.

Tanya wanted to stress that the club is very big on welfare for its members this year.

“We want to provide support in all aspects of medical school”. They are running

tutorials, drop-in welfare sessions, and setting up families within the club. RUMS

Badminton remains the ‘biggest club in RUMS’, but perhaps they now can also be

called the friendliest.

Her last words?

all my love to


my Badminton


– hit me up if


need help.


How fitting.


How to be UCL’s Next Top Doctor

We Zoomed Charlotte Casteleyn, Chloe Leftley, Michele Chan and Stephen

McWilliams one rainy afternoon to talk about UCL Next Top Doctor.

A stack of leaflets left in LT1 drew Stephen, Chloe, Charlotte, and Michele in. Now, they’re

running it.

UCL’s Next Top Doctor, not to be confused with Target Medicine, is a student-led

volunteering outreach scheme.

“Anyone interested in volunteering with a shorter time commitment, fewer training

sessions, and pre-planned material should look no further,” according to Project Leader

Charlotte, who stressed just how easy it is to get involved. “The only training required is

an online course on volunteering with children, which can be done from the comfort of

your own home. And the teaching is likely to be run over Zoom or a similar platform.”

Medical student volunteers run four consecutive, one-hour sessions on Wednesday

afternoons. Next Top Doctor targets both Year 10 and Year 12 students in non-selective

state schools. This early intervention is unusual, and deeply rewarding as you get the

opportunity to instil confidence in younger students who might not even think to consider

medicine as a career. Stephen adds, “In disadvantaged areas and schools, it's just so

common to rule yourself out of the running before you've even tried, so the early

inspiration Next Top Doctor provides is vital.”


This is different from most other widening access

schemes, which can feel very competitive. Often, to

even take part, students have to have certain

predicted grades, and thus a certain level of awareness

of what is required.

The Medical Student Leads also explained that they

aim to introduce students to a broader range of career

opportunities, in healthcare or an allied healthcare

profession. This is less intimidating for the students,

who may not be willing to entirely commit to medicine.

“It’s more holistic,” Chloe chimes in. “It’s a more chill


They are taken through the application process, but

also hear about other careers in the medical field and

what is required for these. the fact that it is given by

medical student volunteers is helpful for them, as the

volunteers know the ins and outs of the system.

gives you It


“It’s weirdly nostalgic,” Charlotte agreed. “Every

student in the medical school has had to go through

the same process, and having the chance to help

someone else get through allows for reflection on your

own experiences.”

in standing

of a front

of 16- room



It’s also a great opportunity to improve your

presentation skills. For Michele, this was very




them. teach

“And it’s a nice break from the monotony of medicine,”

Chloe adds.

So for those keen to volunteer, with four afternoons

to spare, who are looking for a short-term but fulfilling

opportunity, you can find Next Top Doctor on

Facebook and Instagram.


Next Top Doctor UCL




Daivi Shah & Yeun


Gyeong Woo




'Fresher' Perspective


The ripples of the COVID-19 shockwave can be felt far and

wide—the change to university life is remarkable. Gone are the days of

waiting for the lecture to start in a packed hall amid the buzz of

conversation. Instead, we sit in the Zoom waiting room—alone,

isolated, silent. For freshers, this is university.

Looking for the positives

But is online learning so bleak? With

asynchronous lectures, you can go at your

own pace and take breaks. Overall, you have

more flexibility and control over your

learning. It provides you with the means of

fitting university around other aspects of

your life and not vice versa. A first year

noted: “One perk is that I can be much more

liberal with my time. It’s much easier to work

through lectures at my own pace whenever I

want to, twice the speed if needs be!”

With Unitu, there is more communication

between staff and students. Students can

suggest improvements to the current system

and “up-vote” feedback that has already

been posted to see if it is a shared view. It

provides the opportunity for staff and

students to navigate the unexplored territory

of online learning together.

However, Unitu may be considered an

outlier. Many of the social aspects of

university have disintegrated and so have

the traditional ways of making friends. The

first year said: “As I live at home this year, it’s


definitely been harder to connect with

others through Zoom socials the same

way you would in person, especially as a

Fresher where everyone is new. For me, I

would say this has been the most

challenging aspect so far.”

While Zoom seminars are a suitable

alternative, it inevitably comes with

difficulties such as knowing when to

speak without interrupting someone else

or bouncing off each other’s ideas or

debating with each other—how do you

read a room when there is no room?

One staff member said that they have

found that “with new students, there is

more interaction and opportunities to be

informal and have fun.” They also noticed

a marked increase with attendance and


As the technology was new to them, they

do get “slightly nervous before going into

sessions and feel a bit embarrassed when

problems arise.” They found asking for

help through emails to be a lengthy

process—one of the effects of the

pandemic is that communication is now

much more by email than phone, which

has really slowed the flow of information

The staff member did find that student

engagement remained unaffected by

online sessions. “Initially there are some

who contribute more than others

However, as I keep encouraging students

to participate, and as students feel more

comfortable with the group, they are

more willing to share ideas. Having

cameras on aids participation."

online learning the



Even though online learning is not

their preference, the staff member I

spoke to does think that there is a

“future with online learning” and

mentioned that this is something “UCL

have tried to do before”—though they

think “it should not all be online but a

blended approach." They said that

there is “a future with online

consultations for doctors so students

should become accustomed to online


Even though “nothing beats face to

face”, this environment is new for

everyone and as “we continue to make

improvements to the current system,

we hope it will become more fun and


The prospects are hopeful for

returning to a state of normality over

the coming months, but the question

is: do we want that at university? The

COVID-19 emergency has driven rapid

innovation in online learning and

shown us many potential benefits, but

also reminded us of the value of inperson

tuition. Perhaps a mixture of

the two will become the new normal.






Student’s A


This generation has seen several devastating events

brought about as consequences of a failure to

acknowledge and understand the historical and

institutionalised discrimination that is endemic in this


The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud

Arbery and countless others in May 2020 led to outrage,

unrest and a resurgence of modern civil rights (Black

Lives Matter) that transcended the US. This growing

anger towards institutional racism was echoed in the UK

as a statue in Parliament Square was spray-painted ‘was

a racist’ and the state of Edward Colston, a slave trader

in the 17th century, was pulled down in Bristol by

protesters. In the context of academia, students are

demanding greater scrutiny and reform of a curricula

that still reflects an outdated colonial perspective.

Throughout this article and in the context of academic

curricula, ‘decolonisation’ is defined as the ‘aim to

overturn power balances that arise from historic and

institutional biases along axes of race, class, gender and

disability’ (1). Through this lens, we explore the world

‘from the perspective of populations that have

historically been oppressed and marginalised by these


In unpacking this concept in medical education, it

becomes clear that medical students need an inclusive

and insightful curriculum that will enable us to treat

patients from minority groups appropriately. This must

include a combination of learning and also unlearning of

implicit biases within healthcare.


Medical students, and existing doctors, need

to be trained with the skills and appropriate

knowledge to practice on a diverse patient

population while also being encouraged to

scrutinise the often oversimplified approach of

classifying and subsequently stereotyping


Over recent years, UCL has made a

conscientious effort to overhaul its

curriculum, mainly through the project

Liberating the Curriculum (LtC) [2017].

Within the medical school, this is mainly

enacted through the Decolonising the

Medical Curriculum movement (DtC).

This is an instinct that is implicitly reinforced

throughout our medical education, as learned

stereotypes enable us to make faster yet

seemingly unconscious judgements to find

correct answers. This approach continues into

medical school teaching as we are taught of

ethnic predisposition to illnesses and how

these are to be explored and managed. At a

higher level of medical education, this

approach to classify and stereotype is

perpetuated in the same way as the Situational

Judgement Test (SJT). Students are examined

with time-pressured SBA questions or OCAPE

stations and rewarded by correct answers.

A crucial step towards making this curriculum

fairer would be to educate on implicit biases

and remove colonial references. Though the

ethnic predisposition and prevalence of

diseases are explored and supported by

medical literature, we cannot extrapolate that

this propensity to illness is rooted solely in

race. An example might be a patient of Afro-

Caribbean descent with bone pain almost

always assume the patient has sickle-cell

disease, or that we must use different

pharmacological interventions for different


This oversimplification may encourage

clinicians to categorise patients into

demographics and not reflect on the individual

characteristics of each patient’s case. It

reflects an outdated approach to medicine

which could potentially be fatal, as other

symptoms pointing to a different diagnosis

may be overlooked by doctors wanting to

narrow down options and reach quicker

conclusions in time-sensitive environments.






clinical skin




different skin tones"

UCL states that its curriculum can be thought

of in three layers: the intended, the ‘hidden’

and the received. The intended curriculum

includes course content and assessments,

whereas the ‘hidden’ curriculum would be

exposure to workplace cultural norms and an

unconscious systemic structure, that is to

say, the unconscious bias that leads to

automatic judgements made by us, outside

our conscious thought and rationale.

The ‘received’ curriculum can be thought of

as the student experience. One of the

fundamental objectives of the LtC initiative

was to question this ‘hidden curriculum’ and

work to reveal the gaps between the

intended and experienced curricula, which

can often be uncomfortable to confront.

Some constructive changes included the

acknowledgement that there was insufficient

teaching of clinical skin pathology on

different skin tones. For clinical students,

skin cancer ‘stickers’ were introduced to

illustrate how cancer may appear on darker

skin tones. For the preclinical students,

several new sessions were introduced in CPP

and the SSC content, including topics such as

white privilege and microaggressions.

Second year students were given a talk

exploring racism and microaggression in the

workplace – the presenter provided anecdotes

of his own experiences with workplace

microaggression in the form of offensive

comments from patients and colleagues.

Though I personally found this talk very

interesting, it did raise some questions.

Hosting these talks during SSC sessions is

undoubtedly a step in the right direction,

however, it is not enough.

So much of the language that surrounds

decolonisation and deconstructing race is

powerfully emotive for obvious reasons but

could also be interpreted as accusatory. I think

it is important to clarify that UCLMS does not

aim to erase white voices, or point fingers but

rather to encourage discussion and create

space for improvement.

As engaging as the talks on racism were, the

intense pressure to learn content for medical

exams means that students may not feel that

this content is worth further consideration.

A possible solution may be to examine this

content in SBAs or OCAPE stations, yet

continuous work is needed to integrate this

into the curriculum rather than present it

alongside existing course material.

There is no doubt that we are moving in the

right direction, particularly here at UCL, but

there is still so much work to be done in

dismantling the problematic ideologies that is

deeply integrated into our healthcare system,

as well as creating the right environment for

open discussion about race and marginalised

groups in medicine.

As future healthcare professionals, we all have

a duty to question what we are learning and

think about how we can improve medical

education for the generations after us.

To find out more about the work that UCL

is doing, the Decolonising the Medical

School curriculum movement can be found

at the sites below.





RUMS out of


By Em Lloyd

and Simran Kazi


In our summer issue of the RUMS Review, ‘RUMS in Lockdown’,

we were privileged to share some of the uplifting stories and

experiences from students throughout the ongoing pandemic.

We really enjoyed sharing this positivity, and wanted to continue

this theme, particularly because we know that preclinical

students have not been able to spend time in and around

Bloomsbury this term.

We invited students to share their favourite experiences and

memories of preclinical years, particularly focusing on the

Cruciform building, the UCL main campus and the things that are

so widely experienced as UCL medical students. We have loved

reading these submissions and have selected some of our

favourites for you to read and enjoy.

For clinical students, we hope that these anecdotes will make

you reminisce about your time in first and second year. If you

are a first year student, we particularly hope that this article will

highlight some of the experiences that you can look forward to!

We would like to say a big thank you to Anjana for her support

in the planning and writing of this article, as well as to all of the

students who responded with their experiences and anecdotes!


All of the best things about being in preclinical years

Certainly, being a preclinical student in

the Cruciform gives you a real sense of

being part of UCLMS, you spend so much

time as a whole year group for teaching!

Anatomy Teaching and Labs

From having unofficial seats in the

Cruciform labs to working with your

dissection group, there are so many

things that people miss when they leave

them behind for clinical years!

Great Sense of Community

Spending Time in LT1

LT1 is certainly the surrogate home of

preclinical medics. We've probably spent

more time here than anywhere else

during Years 1 and 2!



all of the Time


Enjoy wearing your jeans and comfy T-

shirts whilst you're a preclinical student, it

won't last forever!

Time in the


Group Study


New Societies and




Whether you choose to get involved in

RUMS societies or join UCL societies,

there are so many chances to meet new

people and try new things. This is a great

way to feel connected with your peers.


Spending time in the Group Study Area,

whether you decide to study or not, is

definitely one of the defining features of

preclinical medicine at UCL.


Our favourite places around the UCL Campus


Main Quad


The iconic UCL main quad is the

perfect place to eat your lunch when

the weather is good!

Coffee Dr

A staple Cruci!



Why not visit the Grant Museum of

Zoology or the Petrie Museum when

the pandemic is over?

These beautiful squares are a great

place to go for a lunchtime walk.

Gordon Square

Tavistock Square and

Our recommendations for the best place to study

Take a short walk to the Welcome

Trust Collection, right next to Euston

Square Station!

Welcome Trust Collection

House Library


Just a short walk from the UCL

Campus, Senate House Library is well

worth a visit, especially if you go via

the Bloomsbury Farmers' Market.



The new Student Centre is a great

place to visit, look out for Jeremy

Bentham in his glass case!



Favourites include the Law Section!


Bonus! The best places to eat in Bloomsbury

Roti King

Amazing Malaysian food at studentfriendly

prices, right next to Euston


Bloomsbury Farmers' Market

You'll be spoilt for choice at this

market, with all sorts of food stalls

selling everything from koftas to vegan


Goodge Street Market Stalls

There are plenty of global cuisine

options on Tottenham Court Road,

such as Thai, Indian, Italian, Lebanese

and more!


famous BMA wrap is a lunchtime

staple - there's a reason it has inspired

it's own Facebook page!

We understand that it is a difficult time for everyone right now, but especially for

first and second-year students who have had a completely different and

unexpected RUMS experience so far! Despite this, our advice to any pre-clinical

student would be to really enjoy this time while it lasts, and to take advantage of

all of the opportunities that are available to you! Whilst it is important to study

hard, it is equally important to make friends and enjoy yourself too.

Words of Wisdom

Whilst you may not yet be fully immersed into life at UCLMS, we are so excited to

have you as part of the community, and there are so many fantastic experiences

that you will be able to have very soon!



Alumnus Feature

By Dr Vivekka Nagendran



in Therapy

Dr Vivekka Nagendran graduated

from UCL in 2019 and is currently a

Foundation Year 2 doctor working

in A&E.

Eye Disease

Our cells contain thousands of genes that

are the cornerstone of how our body

functions. Genes are segments of DNA that

contain information enabling the synthesis

of proteins required for us to survive and

grow. They can however be defective, or

even missing, thereby not allowing certain

processes to take place. In the past few

decades, modern medicine has advanced so

rapidly that we are now devising ways to

repair defective genes within the human

body in a process called gene therapy.

The eye is an appealing target for gene

therapy. It is an easily accessible organ, is

relatively immune privileged (therefore

anything we administer is unlikely to be

targeted by the immune system), and

genetic diseases of the eye are wellresearched.

There are many inherited genetic diseases

that affect the retina. Leber’s Congenital

Amaurosis (LCA) is a group of mainly

autosomal recessive eye diseases that




a provides

progressively worsening visual acuity, often

leading to complete blindness by the early

to late 30s. It is caused by mutations in the

RPE65 gene, which affects the eye’s ability

to generate a functioning Retinal Pigment

Epithelium (RPE). In turn, this causes marked

vision impairment. Another inherited disease

is retinitis pigmentosa, which involves

progressive degeneration of the retinal

photoreceptors and RPE, leading to

blindness. These are just two out of a myriad

of genetic conditions that affect the retina,

and the toll they take on the individual is

huge. Currently, effective treatment that

slows the progression of these diseases, let

alone one that cures it, remains virtually


glimmer of hope

Gene therapy provides a glimmer of hope:

the sheer possibility of being able to replace


a defective ocular gene with a functioning one is an

exciting concept. However, for this to happen

multiple steps need to be considered. The gene needs

to be taken up by the target cells, imported into the

nucleus, expressed by the cell, and then translated

into a working protein product. This all needs to

happen whilst simultaneously avoiding degradation by

the cell.

is still much


to be done–


long term


to be


studied intensely

The adenovirus is a non-enveloped virus that has a

capsid and contains double stranded DNA. It is an

extremely useful vector for DNA, given that it can

very effectively perform all of the aforementioned

strategies for gene expression. The virus can enter a

host cell by interacting with its cell receptors and

release its own DNA into the nucleus of that host cell.

There, the viral DNA is expressed along with the host

cell’s DNA. However, adenoviral DNA is not

incorporated into the host DNA, and therefore, its

effects are lost once the cell replicates. Many clinical

trials use recombinant adeno-associated virus which

works in a similar way; we inject it with the DNA we

wish to be transcribed and translated in the host cell.

This is an incredibly stimulating and growing field of

study in the treatment of inherited retinal diseases.

Trials using these strategies have been commissioned

for LCA, retinitis pigmentosa and other diseases, and

have produced promising results. There is still much

work to be done – the long term effects of the viral

vectors need to be studied intensely. It would be

more beneficial if the genes could be incorporated

into the host genome to allow for longer lasting

treatment. This won’t be the last we are hearing about

gene therapy!

References used in the writing of this article can be found on page 76.








The Royal Free Association provides financial help to UCL medical students in

various ways.

1. A distress fund to assist students who are having difficulties funding their

studies, accommodation or living costs

2. A student elective support fund to assist final year students who are

undertaking electives abroad in third world countries

3. The new Royal Free Awards for graduate students in their penultimate year who

have already taken a degree before entry to medical school

All information can be found on Moodle under the heading bursaries.

Alternatively you can contact MBBS Student Support at:


RFA AGM is to be held on Thursday 18th November commencing at 10.00am.

This year all being well we are holding our Triennial Dinner on the evening of

Wednesday 17th November at the RAF Club in Piccadilly. Tickets will be

available in the spring.

Dr Peter Howden

Honorary Secretary and Treasurer

RFHSM 1983



Neuroscience and Psychiatry Intersect

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new millennium. John Wiley & Sons.

3. Baker MG, Kale R, Menken M. The wall between neurology and psychiatry: Advances in neuroscience

indicate it's time to tear it down. BMJ. 2002;324(7352):1468-1469. Available from:


4. Nasrallah HA, Weinberger DR. Handbook of schizophrenia: the neurology of schizophrenia, vol 1.

Amsterdam: Elsevier; 1986. p. 207-250

5. Haelle T. A Neurology And Psychiatry Merger: Quest For The Inevitable?. Neurology Advisor. Available

from: https://www.neurologyadvisor.com/topics/general-neurology/a-neurology-and-psychiatrymerger-quest-for-the-inevitable/.

6. Price H. Neurology vs psychiatry: the social production of knowledge. Society Pages (Sociological

Images); 2011; 9 September. Available from:


7. Kanner AM. When did neurologists and psychiatrists stop talking to each other? Epilepsy Behav. 2003

Dec; 4(6):597-601. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yebeh.2003.09.013

8. Raja M. Neurological diagnoses in psychiatric patients. The uncertain boundaries between neurology and

psychiatry. Ital J Neurol Sci. 1995 Apr; 16(3):153-8. Available from: doi:10.1007/BF02282982

9. White PD, Rickards H, Zeman AZ. Time to end the distinction between mental and neurological illnesses.

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10. Bullmore E, Fletcher P, Jones PB. Why psychiatry can't afford to be neurophobic. Br J Psychiatry. 2009

Apr; 194(4):293-5. Available from: doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.108.058479

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closer: what teachers, trainers and trainees think. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2006; 77(8): 943–6.

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Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/15/opinion/theres-such-a-thing-as-too-muchneuroscience.html?_r=0


Gene Therapy in Eye Disease

1. Wright AF. Gene therapy for the eye. British Journal of Ophthalmology. 1997;81:620-622. Available

from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjo.81.8.620

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Therapy. BioDrugs. 2017;31(4):317-34. Available from: doi:10.1007/s40259-017-0234-5

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Decolonising the Medical Curriculum

1. Bhambra G.K., Gebrial D., Nişancıoğlu K., 2018. Decolonising the University. London: Pluto Press. p.2

Image Credits

1. Sara Moufeed



V O L . V I I S S U E 1




A G A Z I N E | J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 1



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