Challenging but ultimately very well suited - Mary's intercalating year studying MSc Medical Microbiology25 September 2023 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://lshtm.ac.uk/themes/custom/lshtm/images/lshtm-logo-black.png
I’m Mary, a student in the MSc Medical Microbiology, just now wrapping up the degree! I’m originally from the east coast of Canada, and I hold a BSc in Microbiology and Immunology. I’m also an intercalating medical student; I’m halfway through my MD and after the MSc, I’ll go back to Canada and finish my last two years of medical school. It’s been a busy but inspiring year, and I thought I’d share my reflections on the program and my time in London.
Coming from medical school, I naively thought that the MSc couldn’t possibly be more difficult, but I quickly discovered that the “intensive” nature of the courses at LSHTM is accurate! From October-December, we had class from 10am-5pm 4 days a week, with 3-hour labs every afternoon, and then a research methods class on Fridays. This period was super intense with the combination of getting settled in London and keeping up with the course. As I knew I’d only be in London for a year, I was very keen to take advantage of all aspects of life in London, and was trying to balance getting to know my new city, making new friends, and doing activities! I love all the art and culture on offer in London and I took advantage of as many under-25 discounts as possible, and spent a lot of my fall discovering new things at the Royal Opera House, National Theatre, Barbican, and more, as well as studying of course!
We had our first set of exams right after New Year's, then began optional modules, which involved going into school from 10-5 five days a week. This period from January to March is a bit of a blur, with such an intensive academic workload. I also travelled over the reading week in February and then during our Easter break in April, as I wanted to take advantage of being so close to continental Europe. I was also lucky to attend ECCMID 2023 in Copenhagen to present a project from my medical studies, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford to travel to this conference if I wasn’t already so close to Denmark! After this, we had one more optional module in May. I was lucky enough to take the HIV module, which was an amazing way to combine my learning from the more “scientific” aspects of the MSc with public health and clinical medicine considerations. It felt very full circle, and I was left feeling inspired about possible career directions involving basic science, clinical medicine, and global health work.
During the spring, we were also busy trying to select summer projects. This was a stressful time, with a variety of different options presented to us, all of which involved doing wet lab work on the MSc Medical Microbiology. I realized that due to an early start at my medical school in August I wouldn’t be able to travel internationally for the summer project, which was disappointing as some very interesting projects in Ghana, Laos, South Africa, The Gambia, and more were available to microbiology students. I ended up doing a project nested within the AMBITION clinical trial, which allowed me to explore my newfound interest in the HIV field and work with real clinical samples, which was a new experience for me. I was really happy to get a project that was very clinically oriented, but many of the other options were more related to basic science, which wasn’t super ideal as an intercalating student.
Now, this brings us to the summer! I tried to soak up the sun whenever it was out, and faced a bit more stress with delays in getting ethics approval and starting my lab work. Overall summer in London was great; there is so much to do when it’s nice out, and the city seems to come even more alive. I did end up completing my lab work, and continued to explore new neighbourhoods and events in London.
I can honestly say this year doing my MSc at LSHTM has been one of the best years of my life. The course was challenging but ultimately very well suited to my interests as a medical student. I also absolutely loved living in London, and although it was sometimes exhausting to balance the schoolwork with enjoying all the city has to offer, I definitely think I succeeded. If you are interested in global health, microbiology, and working hard, I really recommend this course. I met some amazing people at LSHTM that will be friends for life, and got to really dive into my passions. I now return to my medical school more inspired and motivated, with memories to truly last a lifetime!