It may be stating the obvious but when it comes to higher education, place is important. For nearly every one who has experienced higher education, memories of their time studying at university will not just be about lectures, exams and reading lists, but will also include memories associated with where the learning took place. And studying in a city like London provides a backdrop and environment like no other.

Whatever subject a student is focusing on, studying it in London can enrich and enhance the experience. An English literature student can walk through the neighbourhoods that Woolf or Dickens describe, and see a performance of Shakespeare at the Globe theatre.  A Business or Finance student can benefit from close proximity to the City of London and other financial districts by making the most of networking and internship opportunities. A Law student can sit in on high-profile trials at courts such as the Old Bailey or the Royal Courts of Justice.

But perhaps no subject is as embedded in the place where it is studied than medicine. By its very nature studying for a degree in medicine means students become involved with the place where they live. A degree in medicine typically takes five or six years to complete, and for much of this time students combine university-based learning with undertaking clinical placements. They will carry out placements in hospitals, GP surgeries and other locations, working alongside health professionals and interacting with patients and their families. Students will also complete Student Selected Components (SSCs) which are an integral part of the curriculum and which give students the opportunity to study areas that are of particular interest to them.

While these experiences are common to medical students throughout the UK, students at London’s five medical schools have the opportunity to benefit from the unique opportunities the city can offer. London’s huge and varied population, its position as a research hub attracting the best researchers from across the globe, and the cityscape itself give medical students access to a range of experiences. A few examples of these comprise:

  • Imperial College London’s Community Action project. The project is conducted during a GP placement by all year 3 medical students. Students identify a local community need, and design, deliver and evaluate an intervention to improve the wellbeing of the community. One such project aimed to raise mental health awareness in an Arab patient population in a primary care setting.The aim of this unique co-creation project with Arab patients from a GP Practice was to create an informative and inclusive ‘stop-motion’ Mental Health animation video to address the issues of stigmatisation and lack of awareness of mental health services in a culturally sensitive and language appropriate way.
  • University College London’s collaboration with the Francis Crick Institute. First year UCL medical students engage with postdoctoral tutors, gaining insights into how labs operate and how research develops. Students spend 8 afternoons at the Crick. Several UCLMS alumni and students are currently researching at the Crick/ UCL, producing world class cutting-edge research. Students also attend world class Crick lectures. The SSC ends with a series of student presentations on key biomedical research papers and their clinical impact.
  • Queen Mary University of London’s Pre-hospital Medicine programme: Pre-hospital Medicine is an interdisciplinary field dedicated to the treatment of injury and illness outside hospital, aiming to manage the reversible aspects of physiological processes activated when the human body suffers significant insult through injury. Queen Mary uniquely offers undergraduate medical students the chance to experience this new field, through their working directly with the teams from London’s Air Ambulance and mentors in the London Ambulance Service. Queen Mary are the only medical school in the UK currently offering this level and range of pre-hospital medicine.

Medical schools in London can also interact with the city in creative, and perhaps unexpected, ways. For example, students at St George’s take advantage of London’s art galleries, as outlined in this case study:

  • St George’s, University of London: Encouraging creativity in London’s Medical students. There are so many museums and galleries in London and these are a rich resource for medical students. In the first year, they are encouraged to find a piece of artwork or an artefact and write a reflective piece that links to medicine and healthcare. In the final year, the medical school runs a 5-week short course where students explore a visual art and health theme of their own choosing and create a sketch book and a reflective essay.  A number of students identified how their visual diagnostic skills had improved by critically evaluating visual artwork in more depth. One student described how these opportunities had allowed them to gain “an insight and appreciation for the intersection between community, artistic experience and a need to remain inquisitive as a doctor”

On 18 June, students and medical school colleagues from across London will come together to present and share case studies, including the examples above. “There’s Nowhere Like London”: celebrating what is unique about studying medicine & dentistry in London will showcase what the city can offer.  A panel discussion will also take place, exploring the different ways in which medical schools and their students interact with London and with their local communities, and how these opportunities can be maximised.

This event is open to all and forms part of London HE Week. For further details and to register, visit https://www.londonhigher.ac.uk/events/london-he-week/.