Revolutions are odd things at universities; some are demanded by students who occupy the vice
chancellors office, before they grow up and become Labour MPs, whilst others actually happen.
Not as dramatic, or indeed as fun. But I'm in a way part of revolutionary generation. I'm part of
the first year of medical students which is strangely different from the others, most of us are
female, quite lot are from ethic minorities. By contrast 20 years ago medicine was profession for
white, middle class men.
Our student magazine has a regular feature, re- running editorials from back issues. In the last
issue there was a piece written by a female medical student in the late 1960s. She felt isolated as
there were very few women on her course, student nurses, who in those days were all female, mainly
saw her as competitor in the race to win a nice young doctor as a husband. On the page opposite it
carried the winner of this years prize for the best student contribution, incidentally written by a
good friend of mine - 'Problems faced by Gay Asian medical students'. Mainly, he concluded there
were no problems, but some students showed a little two much curiosity in his sex life, some
students found it difficult to accept that Muslims were gay. The most remarkable thing was
however at the end - his name. This particular student is one of the high achievers, he expects to do
well in his career and become a consultant, he didn't honestly feel that coming out so publicly
would hamper his career in anyway.
Another change became apparent on the first day at my university. Until we started, it had been
tradition for the rugby team to play a prank on the students on their first day, two ex students,
looking scary and Doctor like1, would deliver a lecture on
STDs2. They would then announce that
as they were doing a research project they would like us to all close our eyes and those who had not
had sex to raise their hands. They would then take a picture, which would be plastered around the
medical school for a few days. How they laughed. We didn't.3
I remember thinking that this was the sort of joke that my 16 year old brother would play.
Many students pointed out that their religions did not regard virginity as a joke. They complained
to the Powers that Be4, that year the picture
didn't make it around the medical school. It hasn't been played since. Younger medical students
think of the whole tradition in the same way that they think of learning vaginal examinations on
anesthetised women who hadn't consented - something that is thankfully in the past.
I have never once heard a female student say, 'I don't think I'll be a cardio thoracic
surgeon/neurologist/urologist, it's difficult for a woman, but a few weeks ago on h2g2 a
mentioned that she thought that I'd be a good gynaecologist, my immediate response was 'It
would be difficult for me, as a male student5,to become one. Most patients would rather see a woman, and I would just
not get the experience needed.
The difference between the previous generation of white male doctors and our generation is
that we're used to being part of a minority. Not a small minority of course, and we're hardly
discriminated against6. But hopefully it makes us more open minded.
There is a tiny downside for us. In the past there was a certain type of girl, who wanting a
comfortable lifestyle would go to study nursing, or physiotherapy hoping to meet a nice young
doctor. Now they are at medical school themselves. No one regards doctors as 'good catches' any
more. They know we'll be working long hours, and have the highest divorce and alcoholism rates of
students than people who look like doctors2sexually transmitted diseases3Incidentally the
'tradition' was described by Phil Hammond,
a former member of staff at Birmingham, in his book 'Trust me I'm a Doctor'4The Dean, not the italics5
after a visit to the freshers fair I am feeling sensitive about my age, therefore man is out of the
question6why on earth should a man want to be a gynaecologist