Getting into a medical career can be a long and difficult pursuit. Many students fresh out of their studies will dream of getting a place on a medical degree course but the reality is that for many of these students this dream just doesn’t quite become a reality.

We caught up with brand new medical student Karan Batth about the trials and tribulations he had to overcome to finally obtain his dream placement on a Medicine course. It wasn’t easy or straightforward, he had to pick up a lot of additional experience along the way, but he has finally made it, and he has some advice for anyone else finding themselves on a similar path.

Karan’s story so far

I reached a point where I was unsure what to do next, like many undergraduates.

Karan started his dream of getting into Medicine as soon as he left school, however like many other young and eager students, he found his applications were resulting in rejections.

“I think of myself as quite lucky now because I’ve had such a variety of experiences, but it hasn’t been an easy road. When I finished school, I applied for Medicine but was unsuccessful, so I took a gap year to take some time to see the world and get some experiences abroad. I then applied for Medicine again but once again was not successful.

Karan then decided to apply for a biomedical sciences degree at the Queen Mary University of London. He finished this after three years with a first-class degree.

“I reached a point where I was unsure what to do next, like many undergraduates. I wanted to try to combine my biomedical background with my creative side.”

This led Karan to apply for a job at Instinctif Partners the communications consultancy. Through Instinctif Partners he was able to work with many industry and MedTech companies giving him a broader appreciation especially for genomics.

“I thought this was an exciting, rapidly growing field that I wanted to learn more about. This led me to start thinking about my next steps – an MPhil in Genomic Medicine at Cambridge University.”

We’re pleased to say that Karan has now completed this MPhil and has been accepted on the graduate Medicine course at the University of Cambridge.

“It’s been a convoluted journey so far, but I like to think that it has given me a really diverse skill set that I can now apply to my career in Medicine.”

Studying Genomic Medicine

Cambridge is such a great place for this type of local collaboration, with so many great research institutes in close vicinity.

Karan’s MPhil at Cambridge was a part taught part, research degree. It was very broad – covering everything from cancer to epigenetics to counselling and infectious disease. He also had the opportunity to conduct his own research which he chose to do in personalized breast cancer treatment.

“I did this as part of the personalized breast cancer program, which sequenced 250 patients in the breast cancer unit at Addenbrooke’s. We were characterizing their molecular profiles to retrospectively see how this affects the management of the disease with a view to embed the findings in clinical practice. It was of interest to me because it had a scientific aspect that was also translational.

My research taught me a lot about how much work and collaboration this type of project requires. There were many research institutes, and the NHS, collaborating to carry out the study. Cambridge is such a great place for this type of local collaboration, with so many great research institutes in close vicinity. I got a real feel for the processes behind such collaborative projects and the steps taken to get there.”

Collaborative research: industry, academia, and medical health professionals

I don’t think we should ever see the health care world working independently, there should be this collaborative nature between academics, industry and hospitals

Research into genomics and personalized medicine such as the project Karan carried out during his MPhil are crucial for the progression of medicine and the future of patient treatment. It is an exciting time for genomics and medicine as the field of personalized medicine is expanding but what can be done to help accelerate this research? From his own experiences so far, Karan had a lot to say about how industry ie biotech and pharma companies need to be working collaboratively with academics and healthcare professionals for this progress to continue.

“People have very strong views about industry and the corporate world without having experienced working in that setting themselves. Because I had obtained a lot of my own experience working with different industry and biotech companies, I come at this (medicine) from a different perspective.

I think it’s great for companies to be involved in education and provide educational material. I don’t think we should ever see the health care world working independently, there should be this collaborative nature between academics, industry and hospitals because, ultimately, we are all working towards the same goal – better health.

One of my epigenetic lectures used Abcam’s diagrams as the most up-to-date representation of histone modifications. I found it quite interesting that they chose to use a Company’s diagram, but it makes sense when you think that companies like Abcam are always reacting so fast to changes in research to give their customers up-to-date content.”

You can take a look at the Abcam epigenetic application guide right here.

Achieving your medical dream: the advice

People know their motivations and if you think that medicine is right for you then you have to stick to it.

Karan has achieved his dream of getting a place on the Cambridge University graduate medicine course, however, we wanted to ask him what advice he has for anyone else out there who hasn’t quite made it yet. If you are receiving rejection after rejection, don’t lose hope. You can get there too.

“One thing I learned was just not to give up. In the end, I applied to 13 different medical schools and had 8 interviews leaving me with seven rejections and one offer. The last decade of my life has been dedicated to getting into medicine; acquiring new work experience, adapting my skill set, making new connections.

People know their motivations and if you think that medicine is right for you then you have to stick to it. It’s a very competitive course and you need to be realistic that there is a high failure rate. This can be tough at such a young age. It doesn’t mean that you are not good enough, many people struggle with this, but it is a case of not giving up. The medicine application process is not perfect and great candidates will fall through the net because there is only a finite number of spaces. But keep trying, you need to have a career that you are passionate about and will keep you going so it should be worth putting in the time.”

We are sure that there are many students out there right now struggling to decide what to do next or dealing with application rejections. Hopefully, Karan’s story has demonstrated that sometimes you may need to take a slightly more convoluted route than you first anticipated but there are opportunities and career paths for everyone out there if they are willing to be flexible and put in a little effort.


Photo by Owen Beard

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