My journey into medicine: Hamzah Ali

Hamzah, a medical student at the University of Plymouth, discusses the hurdles he had to overcome to study medicine

5 min read

If you are truly dedicated to studying medicine, failing to get in a few times and not being fazed by it is a reflection of how strongly you want it.

Hamzah Ali

Being the youngest member of my family, my journey to university was especially difficult, since no one in my family had attended before, meaning that I struggled to understand the process and couldn’t learn from my siblings. 

Because I came from a typical British Kashmiri background, many of my teachers didn’t believe in me or encourage the idea of pursuing a career in medicine. I remember odd meetings I had with the career advisor at college, who’d often tell me it was unrealistic for me to apply for medicine, since those who typically did so came from specific backgrounds and were of the elite.

Where they sought to discourage me, I was further motivated to prove to them that I had the passion and drive to succeed as a doctor.

I originally applied to study medicine, like most students did, at the beginning of Year 13 and was fortunate to have two offers. Unfortunately, when results day came, I hadn’t met my offers and was subsequently rejected by both universities. 

I then took a gap year and decided to reapply after resitting my A levels, after which I received an offer from Bristol Medical School as well as one to study Biochemistry at the University of Nottingham as a backup. I was once again unfortunate not to meet the conditional offer for Bristol, but I took up the option to study Biochemistry instead. Once I had started my course, I began to search for Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) courses and what I needed to do to ensure that, this time, I would get into studying medicine.

It was at this point that I came across medicine at the University of Plymouth, where I realised I could apply to study. After contacting admissions about their widening participation, I found that I was eligible to apply under the GEM criteria and that this would be the best option for me.

After receiving an unconditional offer, I dropped out of Nottingham and moved to Plymouth to study medicine.

Overcoming these barriers of consistently getting offers and not meeting them was a testament to my dedication to my goal of studying medicine. 

The three years I had taken to apply for medicine made me realise what a blessing it was to finally be able to study it.

The advice I would give to others trying to overcome similar barriers is the same advice I wish someone had given me when I was applying: if you are truly dedicated to studying medicine, failing to get in a few times and not being fazed by it is a reflection of how strongly you want it. 

I have seen many people give up at the first hurdle, which shows how little they wanted to study medicine. 

If you don’t get in, reflect on why you didn’t. Motivate yourself further and surround yourself with motivation. 

For example, you could work as a volunteer at your local hospital or get a job as a health care assistant (HCA), both of which I did to spur me on. Although the process can be very long, and at times you’ll want to give up, the persistent drive to continue on the path towards medicine is well worth the hassle.

For now, my main focus is to continue with my studies and take part in different specialities to see what intrigues me. Although I have a fondness for paediatrics, this could change over time. 

My future plans are also to help others get into medicine, helping them to overcome the barriers that I did and encouraging people who ordinarily wouldn’t apply to go for medical school. To achieve this, I have started my own business venture, Childish Dr, where I and a few other medical students assist other students in the application process. We provide support to communities where attending university – let alone getting into medical school – is extremely rare.

Access and Participation: supporting your journey into healthcare professions

The University of Plymouth Faculty of Health has a regional and national reputation for its widening participation work, and as part of our commitment to widening participation to medicine, dentistry and health courses, we undertake a series of initiatives in order to raise aspirations and healthcare.

We aim to help target and support the least likely but most able students, regardless of their background.

Read more about starting your journey into medicine and dentistry

Medicine and dentistry school school pupil with microscope