The Backdoor into Medicine

Backdoor into Medicine

Unsure about your future in a medical career? Find out what Matt has to say about the GEMP, the backdoor into medicine you probably didn’t know about.

I am a 5th year student at The University of the Witwatersrand. My journey into medicine, however, may not be what one would expect. This article is aimed at educating you on the so called “back door” into medicine and why I think it may be helpful for those unsure of their futures in a medical degree.

Before we look at the other options to get into medicine, let’s take a look at some of the requirements to apply to medicine.

It’s important to realise that being a doctor is a lot more than just being “book smart”, that said, to get into medicine it is crucial to have your academics in order. For instance, at Wits, your entry is based on a composite index. This index is made up of:

  • Your academic results for 5 subjects (English, Mathematics, Physical Science and the best two others)
  • National Benchmark Test scores

Furthermore Wits has recently decided on a new selection criteria and they are as follows:

  • 40% of places go to the top academic students
  • The remaining 60 % are distributed as: 20% of places go to top rural learners, 20% of places go to the top students at quintile 1 and 2 schools (these are schools deemed to be the poorest government schools in the country), and the last 20% go to top African and Coloured students.

On top of this, Wits receives about 25 000 applications for medicine each year so getting in can be quite challenging when you consider a class consists of about 300 students.

Beating the System

So what happens if you don’t make the cut here, or you’re unsure if medicine is exactly what you want to do? Well there is another way of getting in: GEMP (Graduate Entry Medical Programme)

The medical program at Wits is structured so that there is a separation in the curriculum. The first two years, namely MBBCH 1 and 2, are separated from the last four, namely GEMP 1 to 4.

Boston City Campus

The GEMP system is a system that allows graduate students from other degrees to get into medicine at a third year level provided you pass an entrance exam. Wits is the only university that offers students to enter Medicine in third year.

The application process for this programme is available on the WITS website. Once an application is made, a graduate may then be invited to write the Wits Additional Placement Test or WAPT. The WAPT is an assessment to ensure a suitable level of knowledge on the 3 major components of medicine: Anatomy, Physiology, and Molecular Medicine. The result from this test as well as answers to a questionnaire (the Health Sciences Biosketch) are combined to form a composite index which is used as a ‘score card’ for your progress into medicine.

This route is by no means easier than getting into medicine, it is however, different and allows students from a variety of different backgrounds to get into the medical program if it is something they really want to do.

The ‘Unconventional’ Route

I know about this system from experience. As I mentioned earlier, my route into medicine wasn’t conventional. I applied for medicine in 2009 with reasonable academics and a strong sporting background. I didn’t get in.

I did however get into Biomedical Engineering, something I had only vaguely thought about and was the last on my list of courses I was applying to, at Wits. It turned out to be one of the toughest courses at Wits, but gave me a perspective different to almost anyone in my current medical class and that is the advantage of doing medicine as a post-graduate.

FYI: To be able to get into GEMP you need to have completed and graduated from a degree first. This means once accepted into the GEMP programme you’ll complete your degree in medicine in 7 years (3 years doing an undergraduate degree and 4 years in the GEMP programme.)

In my opinion, the system should the standard route for entry into medicine, it allows for you to engage with a variety of other subjects and topics before entering into the medical system and exposes you to different ways of thinking.

Entering medicine via the standard route means you’re in for 6 years and placed in that kind of system before you are certain you know what you want to do can be dangerous. In doing a degree before applying to medicine, you open up many more options for yourself. Should you decide at the end of it that you still want to do medicine, then there is nothing but good that can come from having a different background in what is such a drastically changing field.

Tips, Tricks and Things to remember:

I think as a student entering the university setting it is easy to get caught up in the idea of getting your degree, but the process of going through university is far more than the end goal. In a changing field such as medicine, having something to set you apart and allow you to look at problems and advances differently can be a powerful tool throughout your career.

I’m sure many people have told you, medicine is HARD and while I could probably write another article on the things you need to know about medicine before going in, here are a few quick pointers that may help you to make a decide if medicine is for you and how to get through it.

So there are just a few of things you “need to know”. If this hasn’t scared you off, then medicine may well be the right path for you. Even if it has scared you a little, it may well still be the right route, if you know you can tackle these challenges. Read about Max Rath’s experience on studying Medicine at Wits University here
.

REMEMBER: TRICK: TIP:
Your academics get you in:  Whether it’s directly into medicine or via the GEMP system, you need to have your marks at the highest level they can be. For those of you at school, start working now, you’ll be amazed at how much reward you’ll get out of an extra hour or two of work. It’ll stand you in good stead for when you’re dropped with a university work load.For those in University, you already know the workload can be insane, my advice would be to get some friends who you work well with, it can make getting through the mountains of work that much easier. An extra brain working on a problem in the wee hours of the morning can be invaluable.
It’s not Grey’s Anatomy. Sorry to break it to you, but there is often very little glamour about medicine, so make sure you know what it actually is, and if it’s what you want to do. One of the best things you could do is job shadow a doctor (or even a medical student) in a hospital. Ideally not the Sandton medi-clinic, because although your career may take you there eventually, the reality is that for up to 8 years after you qualify you will be in a government hospital (2 years internship, 2 years community service, 4 years specialising). So do your best to see what you will be dealing with and what you’ll be doing in real life.
You’ll be busy. Like very busy, a lot of the time. Learn how to manage your time well now, and almost more importantly learn when to stop being busy, and give yourself a break. It’s easy to burn out in a long, tough degree and know how to manage your time and your stress from the get go wills.
You’ll be dealing with people.  Practice dealing with them now. Helping people and potentially saving a life is what drew me, like many of my peers, to medicine. One thing you must realise is you’re often dealing with people at their worst. They can be rude, impatient, and downright annoying, but if that’s something you can handle then you’re on the right road.

[dt_divider style=”thin” /]REMEMBER: Your academics get you in

TRICK:

Whether it’s directly into medicine or via the GEMP system, you need to have your marks at the highest level they can be.

TIP:

For those of you at school, start working now, you’ll be amazed at how much reward you’ll get out of an extra hour or two of work. It’ll stand you in good stead for when you’re dropped with a university work load.For those in University, you already know the workload can be insane, my advice would be to get some friends who you work well with, it can make getting through the mountains of work that much easier. An extra brain working on a problem in the wee hours of the morning can be invaluable.

[dt_divider style=”thin” /]REMEMBER: It’s not Grey’s Anatomy

TRICK: 

Sorry to break it to you, but there is often very little glamour about medicine, so make sure you know what it actually is, and if it’s what you want to do.

TIP:

One of the best things you could do is job shadow a doctor (or even a medical student) in a hospital. Ideally not the Sandton medi-clinic, because although your career may take you there eventually, the reality is that for up to 8 years after you qualify you will be in a government hospital (2 years internship, 2 years community service, 4 years specialising). So do your best to see what you will be dealing with and what you’ll be doing in real life.

[dt_divider style=”thin” /]REMEMBER: You’ll be busy

TRICK:

Like very busy, a lot of the time

TIP:

Learn how to manage your time well now, and almost more importantly learn when to stop being busy, and give yourself a break. It’s easy to burn out in a long, tough degree and know how to manage your time and your stress from the get go wills.

[dt_divider style=”thin” /]REMEMBER: You’ll be dealing with people

TRICK:

Practice dealing with them now.

TIP:

Helping people and potentially saving a life is what drew me, like many of my peers, to medicine. One thing you must realise is you’re often dealing with people at their worst. They can be rude, impatient, and downright annoying, but if that’s something you can handle then you’re on the right road.

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