Follow the experiences of a medical student at UCD!

Hello! I am Fara and at the time of writing this article I’m a final year student. Let me show you around and share my experiences studying in UCD. The school of medicine of University College Dublin has a supportive learning environment which has helped me grow into a holistic medical student prepared to work as a doctor. This is my story throughout my five years in UCD.

Applying via IUMC was a breeze. I handled the application process and sorted the accommodations and registration with the help of IUMC.

Year 1 – 2

Settling into Ireland was no hassle at all. My transition into university life was as smooth as it can be with IUMC assisting me with my first year accommodation before arriving in Dublin. I moved into one of UCD’s campus accommodation blocks, Merville Residences, which was only a 10 minute walk away from the Health Sciences building where our classes were mostly at. Merville also has a convenience store and deli for grocery needs and access to a residential gym in Roebuck Residence, the accommodation block next to Merville. Living on campus was convenient in that everything you needed was within walking distance, including the libraries and sports facilities.
Each apartment includes 4 people each with their own rooms and with a shared common area containing a kitchen and living room.

Fun fact: UCD has the largest campus in all of Ireland, containing scenic walking paths and several lakes, including one secret lake.

The orientation was a well-planned process with many activities prepared to make us feel welcomed. The first week of classes gave us all the information we needed to start our journey in medicine, introducing us to the curriculum in UCD.

The first semester starts off similar to the foundations learned in pre-university biology, with an introduction into anatomy, physiology, histology and biochemistry. 

Mixed in between the medical sciences, we receive some clinical teaching early in our education. As you know, Medicine is not just a discipline of books and theory, but more importantly, requires excellence in communication and practical skills as well. That means we learn how to interact with patients and what it means to perform our duties as a clinician. In year 1, we learnt from real patient volunteers. This early patient contact helped me step out of my comfort zone in a safe environment and build confidence in my communication with patients.

In later semesters, the curriculum becomes systems-based, where instead of teaching anatomy, physiology, histology and biochemistry as separate subjects, they are taught according to bodily systems. For example, the module Respiratory Biology teaches the anatomy of the lungs, then the physiology of it, and so forth. Essentially, much of first year is about learning how the healthy body works — because you can’t know if something is broken without first knowing how it should operate.

We have access to world-class facilities in UCD to help enhance our learning. The dissections lab, for example, is a state-of-the-art anatomy laboratory which I have had classes in once a week, every week for most of my pre-clinical education. We are taught with experienced instructors teaching with prosections (specially designed and dissected cadavers for the teaching of anatomy) as well as being able to dissect cadavers to explore their anatomy on our own. These cadavers were once real patients who had kindly donated their bodies to science, and were a true privilege for us to learn from.

UCD offers a variety of elective modules during year 1 – 3 to give us an option to explore something else that is not part of the main curriculum. I personally took Islam & Christianity History at one point, as well as Chinese 101!

Year 2 is when pathology and pharmacology are then introduced, which is essentially how the body malfunctions, how disease processes take place and the mechanisms of medication. Alongside this, we are introduced to concepts in public health and academic research. The option of doing research with experts during the summer break, known as the Student Summer Research Awards (SSRA) is an opportunity many medical students are encouraged to take part in. I found this to be an exciting experience during the summer break of my first year, researching and presenting on the genes behind colorectal cancer!

In addition to this, what makes learning in UCD unique is that for the first two and a half years, we learn alongside students in the RCSI-UCD Malaysian Campus (RUMC) twinning program. So for those from Malaysia, you’re less likely to feel homesick with so many faces from home around.

Year 3 – 5

The second half of medical school is when those dreams of becoming a doctor start to look a little like reality, and it’s when most of the work lies.

In third year we finish up learning the pathophysiology of all the bodily systems before moving on to learning medicine in a more clinical context. What this means is learning everything again but translating it all into practice and with more depth.

The second half of third year comprises clinical skills, where you learn to take histories from patients and perform physical examinations (you’ll finally learn how to use that stethoscope!). This is also when you’ll be introduced to the basics of the different specialties, a more condensed overview of paediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics & gynaecology, general practice and therapeutics. UCD transitioned me gradually into clinical placements, introducing a week in a rehabilitation hospital, which is calmer than a general hospital, as well as a week in a general practice. By the end of the semester, I was fully immersed in daily clinical placements for several weeks in a general hospital.

By the time fourth year began, I was well used to the rhythm and pace of clinical placements. This is when we truly begin our formal learning in Medicine & Surgery, exploring the same diseases we had learnt before but with a focus on how to diagnose and treat these conditions instead of just learning the disease process itself.

Half of fourth year and final year then expands into the specialty rotations — paediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics & gynaecology and general practice, with examinations taking place at the end of every 6 week rotation. These are also interjected with modules in public health and legal medicine. By the end of final year, what’s left is fundamentally reinforcing everything learnt for the final examinations, prior to which we will be shadowing medical interns to get a sense of what it’s truly like to be on the job.

Throughout my clinical years, I get to rotate through 10 hospitals (out of 20 that are available) and 2 general practices. As UCD is based in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, I was extremely fortunate to have my placements in the biggest centres in Ireland and observe the best clinical practice and expertise in the country. As an international graduate, I feel confident with the level of knowledge, professionalism and competency UCD has equipped me with to become a safe doctor.

Integrate UCC marketing into IUMC’s website.

UCD Medicine curriculum map 

UCD Medicine Introduction video –