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This Doctor Can: widening access to career opportunities

Dr Kav Davoudi came to the UK as a teenager, having never been on a plane without his parents before and with very little grasp of the English language. The challenges he faced as an international medical trainee in the UK led him to set up an online community to support medical students and doctors with their careers.   

At the age of 15, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor. Not only that, but it was my dream to study medicine abroad.

I was born in Iran and I left the country on my own at the age of 16 and flew to the UK. It was a journey of many firsts: the first time I travelled on a plane without my parents; the first time I was away from my parents for more than two weeks, and the first time I had to rely on a second language to communicate.

I arrived at London Heathrow and got a taxi straight to Cambridge, where I spent the next two years revising to pass my A levels. I had a working grasp of English before my arrival, but nothing I had done had prepared me to study science A levels in English. I learned this the hard way when I first opened my biology textbook and realised that I had no idea what half of the words meant.

Two years and many hours of revision later, I was accepted by the University of Bristol to study medicine. As an international student, I faced many challenges.  While I was studying for my A levels, Iran’s currency halved in value, putting my parents and their ability to support me under significant financial pressure. Moreover, I could not easily return to visit my family. In Iran, men are required to do compulsory military service, so I was required to travel to the Iranian Embassy to apply for an exemption twice a year. Furthermore, I had not been exposed to British culture; when asked to partake in pub quizzes, I was totally clueless!

As with most students, it took me a while to gain my confidence and find my feet at university. I found it difficult to make professional connections, because of the language barrier, my strong accent, cultural differences, and a lack of friends or family in medicine. I felt like this played a huge part in me not finding out about career opportunities that some of the other medical students were involved in.

I graduated in 2019 and started my foundation years in Somerset. There, I found out the biggest unspoken secret in medicine – the need for a portfolio! I realised that to enter a competitive specialty, such as medicine, surgery or anaesthetics, I needed to have done a range of activities, including taking on leadership positions, quality improvement projects, publications, presentations, and so much more. I realised that I wasn’t the only one not to be let in on this secret.

My journey inspired me to start MedProjectHub, an inclusive online community for both medical students and doctors, which offers career advice and opportunities. We want a medical profession as diverse as the nation it serves. We believe that access to career opportunities should not be dictated by gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.

Would you like to share your experience of going into medicine? Get in touch on Twitter via @thisdoctorcan.