Just what the doctor ordered

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Rachel Tang

Scholarship student enjoying clinical placement and pledges future to Cumbria

A talented medical student from Cumbria is planning to fulfil a long-term career ambition by bringing her skills back to the region once she qualifies as a doctor.  

Rachel Tang, a 20-year-old trainee, now working two-days per week as part of her clinical placement at West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven, was one of the first UK students to enrol on the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) MBBS (Bachelor Medicine Bachelor Surgery) degree and one of two students on a fully-funded scholarship programme aimed at people residing in the Cumbria and East Lancashire regions.

Rachel was selected as the first recipient of the Dr Kate Granger Scholarship* in 2017, established to honour the memory of a doctor who campaigned for better patient care while suffering from terminal cancer.  Set up specifically for Cumbrian students, it covers all tuition fees for the duration of the five-year programme.

Now, three years on, the UCLan student reflected on her experiences of studying medicine as well as reaffirming her desire to not only invest her skills as a doctor in the Cumbrian NHS but also to give back to the local community and inspire others.

If I can be a role model to help people realise their dreams by learning from my journey, then the future of medical provision in Cumbria will be in good hands.

“The experience provided by this scholarship has been life-changing,” she said.  It’s helped to open so many doors through the knowledge I’ve gained and the medical and health-related contacts I’ve made within Cumbria and further afield.”

As part of her clinical placement Rachel spends two days per week at West Cumberland Hospital, one day at a local GP surgery as well as additional lecture time at the University.

“The first two years of my course were spent in lectures,” added the trainee doctor.  “But now I’m applying my knowledge in areas such as pharmacology and anatomy on a daily basis.

“There is nothing like learning in a real-life scenario. I’ve been working here at the hospital in Whitehaven since September and during that time I’ve learnt so much.

“When I tell patients I’m from Whitehaven it gives people a sense of joy and it makes me feel really proud.”

If everything goes to plan Rachel will qualify as a doctor in 2022 but she’s keeping her options open in terms of medical specialisms. “It could be obstetrics, medicine, surgery or even research,” she continued. “That’s one of the reasons I chose this profession - if you do specialise you still have the option to explore other areas.

“What’s really comes through in this clinical placement is that good communication skills and the ability to demonstrate empathy are crucial because you need your patients to have trust and confidence in you.”

Rachel has also enjoyed inspiring others to follow in her footsteps by helping out with mock interviews at UCLan’s Westlakes Campus for those who’d like to enter the medical profession on the University’s Medical School foundation programme.

She has also collaborated with colleagues in setting up a remote and rural medicine society which, as well as providing a platform for professionals already in the sector to network and learn from one another, will provide opportunities for school leavers in Cumbria to explore their health-related career options.

“When I was at school in Cumbria there were so many talented pupils who just needed a little more direction and confidence to have a clearer understanding of the potential career paths they could take after exams, whether this was in medicine or wider fields.

“For me the experience has been inspiring and once I qualify, I can’t wait to come back. If I can be a role model to help people realise their dreams by learning from my journey, then the future of medical provision in Cumbria will be in good hands.”

Professor John Howarth, Deputy Chief Executive at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust, added: “It is great to see how well Rachel is doing and how far she has progressed in the past 3 years and it is also fantastic that she wants pursue her career here in Cumbria. Being able to follow someone on their journey and watch them grow is what we are all about at NCIC. We love to grow our own staff and nurture them along the way with the support they need to help them in their role.

“There are so many career opportunities within the NHS and especially in Cumbria, where we are a centre of excellence in providing rural and remote healthcare. We’re always on the lookout for great people to join our team, from newly qualified staff to those with more experience. We have lots of unique opportunities for personal and professional development.”

*Working with North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust (NCIC) and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT), the University established the scholarships as part of a wider, long-term UCLan strategy to attract and retain local doctors to NHS employment in the region, considering the issues both Lancashire and Cumbria have faced around attracting and retaining health professionals.

Chris Theobald | 17 February 2020