A foundation for learning and life: Tim

Medicine has a recruitment problem

Historically viewed as a profession for the privileged, there has remained a notable shortage of people entering from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, despite national attempts to widen participation.

For years, the University has attempted to meet this challenge by working with local schools in the South West to raise aspirations among pupils in medicine and other health-related subjects. And in 2019, it took a new step to widen participation in the subject, launching the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery with Foundation degree, specifically designed as a route into medicine for those who might not choose higher education. The course offers students an introductory year to build practical and academic skills, as well as their confidence, before they transfer onto the traditional five-year medical degree.

I want to help people.

That’s where this all begins for me. Much of my inspiration for joining the medical degree course comes back to this, and to my family and their history of illnesses. Many of them have struggled with different issues, such as autonomic nervous system conditions that affect the regulation of heart rate and blood pressure. It’s been so severe that I have had periods in care while they’ve been treated.

I was good at science from an early age. I did OK in my GCSEs and chose A level subjects that would help me pursue my dream to be a doctor. But the college I attended was not particularly supportive of my desire to apply for medicine. They thought the grades required would be too high. I knew it would be difficult– from an academic and social perspective– but I knew it was what I wanted to do.
I did my own research into medical degrees and learned about Plymouth's foundation year course . I really liked the sound of the interactive learning model – one based around enquiry, discussion and research – because I thought that would really suit the way I like to learn. So,  I took the decision to redo a year of my A levels in order to get the grades I needed, and that extra year also provided me with more time to mature.
I was not someone who could simply pay for extra tuition to get the A grades I needed in maths and science. That’s why the ‘Year 0’ option was so appealing, and why it’s so important to people in my position – it offers us a chance for equal access.
I really enjoyed the course. We learned about topics in great scientific detail and discussed meaningful medical and societal issues such as discrimination. 
When lectures moved online in the pandemic, I really missed the human interaction. It made it much harder to meet people, especially as social gatherings were non-existent at times. And life is more challenging when you have to be self-reliant for the first time, from planning and balancing finances, to cooking and maintaining your health. It’s hard for foundation students to supplement their income with a part-time job when the degree is so challenging. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a Care Leavers Bursary – which I will receive for each year of my degree – and that means I can focus more on my studies. I’m excited, and truly glad to be at the stage I am right now. My dream is to go into cardiology or neurology, so I know the years ahead will be demanding.
But I can do it
Tim’s bursary has been funded in part through the donations of alumni and friends of the University to the Plymouth Fund. To support care leavers bursaries or learn more about our scholarships and bursaries, visit our donation and support page .