Asma Akhtar

Graduated in 2013

How did you get into medicine?

I recall vividly, looking at an ENT anatomy book at the age of six, which ignited my initial interest. While at school and sixth form, I built up my extra-curricular activities as well as voluntary work and placements. This further reinforced my desire to study medicine as I gained a deeper insight into what life as a doctor is like. A particularly important lesson I learned was the awareness that the degree and life afterwards isn’t easy: it is lifelong learning. The career involves training, keeping an up-to-date portfolio, doing exams, all of this often at the same time as working full time. This, on top of maintaining a life outside of work, is a tough balancing act. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoy my job and through experience have learned to juggle the various requirements of it.

What was being a medical student like?

Being a medical student was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, one which I was in no rush to end! The first years are heavily centred around the standard components of biochemistry, labs, anatomy, and physiology. However, at Keele, we had the opportunity to attend communication skill days and a few placement days in hospital during our first two years. I enjoyed this as it gave me a more comprehensive insight into what life as a doctor is like. I really enjoyed the clinical years, and that is the part I most eagerly anticipated. Additionally, with Keele being a small medical school, the staff and students got to know each other more intimately and allowed us to establish really good relationships. Despite this, studying medicine naturally has various challenges: you are in lectures, dissection, and problem-based learning (PBL) throughout the week with a lot of days being 9–5, requiring much more attendance than most other degrees. Equally it is all worth it as it is an extremely satisfying learning curve, a personal highlight for me being dissection and anatomy. Fortunately, at Keele, there are multiple societies and sports to get involved with to relax physically and mentally outside of medicine.

How did the course at Keele prepare you for life as a junior doctor?

Firstly, at Keele we maintained a portfolio from first year. This habit over the five years adapted us to keeping a portfolio alongside being a doctor post qualification. The problem-based teaching style of clinical cases, anatomy, physiology, etc., was also very useful. This made me appreciate the relevance and importance of understanding such concepts, and how the skills of being able to self-learn would translate to life as a doctor. I particularly found final year very useful for life as a junior. Attachments and essentially working alongside Foundation Year 1's meant that when actually starting as a junior doctor, it felt like a continuation from fifth year. Clinical skills are also taught very well and I didn’t struggle as a junior doctor due to having the teaching as well as the compulsory sign offs for them.

Why did you decide to become a GP?

Becoming a GP wasn’t actually a part of my original plan. I had wanted to pursue surgery throughout medical school and while in training. I even commenced core surgical training and decided to switch; I have zero regrets about this! The reason general practice appealed to me was that it is much easier to maintain a work-life balance as well as having endless scope to pursue specialist interests or other pursuits whilst still working predominantly as a GP. After completing the foundation years, you can apply to GP training. This is three years long: 1.5 years of hospital placements (which will change to 1 year) and then 1.5 years of GP (which will change to 2 years). I feel GP is challenging, fast-paced and stimulating. A GP can be a partner, salaried or locum. Alongside this often people with develop their specialist interests, for example diabetes, cardiology, dermatology, occupational health. There is also ample opportunity to be involved in management/leadership roles as well as medical education.

What does your job involve? What is a typical day like?

I currently work four days a week. The day is split into two sessions: morning and afternoon. Due to Covid-19 we do telephone consultations, which are ten minutes long. If I feel the patient needs to be seen face-to-face I can choose to book them in later on the same day or later in the week, depending on urgency. My morning session is normally 9am–12pm and then during lunch I will often go through letters from the hospital, bloods results and complete any referrals that I need to do. Two-week wait referrals are urgent and thus must be completed on the day. We have a practice meeting once a week which allows doctors to discuss cases which they are unsure about or want further advice on. If on-call, I start at 8.30 am. The on-call GP takes all queries, ranging from telephone calls from the hospital, district nurses, nurses, staff within the practice, urgent prescription requests as well as their own list, which is normally reduced to accommodate the on-call.