Volunteering at the Western Health and Social Care Trust opened the doors to the world for me!

6th June 2019

Marisa Wallace Volunteer e1559812406346 700x921

In 2014/ 2015 I volunteered in the Care of the Elderly Ward in Altnagelvin for around 6 months. This was to gain some experience of working within a clinical setting. As well as helping me secure a place to study Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, it started me on my journey of knowing how to interact with other members of staff and most importantly, with patients. I think a lot of students lose sight of the perhaps obvious fact that we are dealing with sick patients. When in hospital people are often at their most vulnerable, often with worries for what will happen and for their family that they are not with as well as the illness that takes a toll on their body. Chronically shy at first I didn’t know how to go about it. I observed how the staff interacted with these patients and tried to take it all in. And then over time, I learned through my experiences how to interact and to provide some comfort to these people through something as simple as a cup of tea and a conversation. I was able to understand just how many people were involved in looking after the patients and was able to solidify my decision to become a part of that team. I really do believe it better prepared me for the path I was about to take in training to become a medical doctor.

I have since completed three years at QUB and loved every second. I love working with patients so much I even began part time work as a Nursing Auxiliary on weekends and holidays. I have completed placements in many hospitals in and around NI and look forward to completing my further two years of study before graduating in 2021. At present I am interested in a career in Surgery.

After my third year, I decided to pause my medical studies and pursue a Masters degree, something that is quite common for UK medical students. Coming straight from school I wanted to gain a bit more experience out in the world and also to develop skills within medical research that would benefit me in the future. I am completing my Masters of Global Health with Maastricht University, The Netherlands. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Due to the nature of the course I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world whilst gaining hands-on experience in health system research and health program planning. I completed a semester in Maastricht and a semester completing a practical elective in Bogotá Colombia where I helped develop and initiate a sexual health program for schools. Recently I attended a conference in India, where I was able to collaborate with student all over the world. This summer I am completing my dissertation as part of an internship with the Institute of Global Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. I will travel to Malawi where I will be interviewing surgical staff as part of a project looking at rural staff shortages.

So as you can see getting into medical school has opened up endless opportunities for me! It is so important to remember how we got where we are and I can’t thank the Western Health and Social Care Trust for giving me and so many other students that opportunity.