Current UCD Medicine Student Eoin takes a look back at filling out his CAO application and why he put Medicine in UCD as Number One.

So the Leaving Cert is over, the textbooks have been thrown into the back of the closet hopefully never to be seen again, and summer is just about to begin. After summer the next exciting chapter of your life begins: COLLEGE! You may have known exactly what you wanted to study since day one of filling out the CAO, or you may still be confused. Medicine or science? Five years or six years? Cork, Dublin or Galway? There are hundreds of choices to be made, but you still have time! The CAO Change of Mind facility closes at 5.15pm on the 1st of July, and I want to tell you why you should put UCD as your number one if you are hoping to study Medicine in September.

The decision to study medicine is a big one. Taking five or six years, it is one of the longest undergraduate degrees on offer. Having come right out of six years of secondary education that number can be scary! You would be forgiven for automatically opting to do a five year course, like in Trinity, UCC, RCSI or Galway. Why waste an extra year, right? In fact, UCD is the only college that requires you to complete six years to get your medical degree – why? The biggest reason is that UCD only requires you to have done ONE science subject, and the extra year we have is for all the students to be brought to the same level in all the basic sciences. It’s sort of a foundation year to help us all find our feet and ensure we have the right base to understand and learn the anatomy and physiology in the years to follow.

Medicine Students

You may be thinking, “I did biology, chemistry and physics for the leaving cert so won’t this first year be boring?”. Well, luckily after the first few weeks none of the courses are rehashing old leaving cert information. They apply the key concepts to new topics, such as how x-rays work, or how drugs are metabolised in the body. You study how the body is structured and works by starting at the most basic building block, the cell, and you learn how small mutations at this level can manifest as serious diseases on a human level. On top of the academic side, this first year is more relaxed and will give you a huge amount of opportunities to bond with your new classmates, the people who one day you’ll be working with.

The next two years will see you transition into studying anatomy and physiology – the study of how the body is arranged, and how it all works together. You learn with lectures, tutorials and dissection labs. These years are invaluable, and the ability to understand how all the organs and organ systems work in harmony in a healthy person is key to understanding when something goes wrong, and the implications on the body. For example, what happens to the heart after a long period of high blood pressure, or how cancer spreads and metastasises. You study pathology like this in the second half of third year, and in fourth year.

The majority of the last two years are spent on clinical placement. UCD has connections with a large range of hospitals and GP clinics all over Leinster, and you will at points complete regional placements. For the most part however, we are paired with either the Mater Misericordiae in the city centre, or St. Vincent’s Hospital just down the road. Both are world class hospitals, and provide us with the chance to engage with patients, scrub in on surgeries, and present clinical cases. The two years allows us to move around and see as many specialities as possible, and to revise and put all the knowledge we have learnt in the pre-clinical years to the test!

So you can see, in the six years there’s very little wasted time. The extra year just makes the workload slightly more manageable, and a bit less stressful than in other colleges rushing to get the degree done in five! It also give us a bit more free time to pursue extra-curricular activities. UCD has over 80 societies and 60 sports clubs, and although the medical society are phenomenal for organising trips, events, balls and tournaments for us, it’s important to branch out and try new sports and meet people outside of the course. Medical studies are based out of the Health Sciences building on the campus, shared with the nursing and physiotherapy students to name a few, and is nestled near the science and veterinary buildings, the gym and student centre, and only a short walk to the rest of the campus. Having everything nearby and available on campus is one of the best things about UCD.

I’m so glad I put UCD Medicine down as my #1 on the CAO when I was in sixth year. You still have some time to rearrange yours, and I would encourage any prospective medical students to think long and hard and consider choosing UCD as your number one. I haven’t regretted it, and you won’t either!