The road to medicine isn’t an easy task and neither is it a short one. In a world where we are still challenging the status quo, we felt it was very important to interview Lauren Romayne, who will soon become a fully fledged Doctor within the U.K.
Congratulations for making it this far! How long have you been studying medicine and when did you know you wanted to become a Doctor?
Thank you! Well, I have been in higher education for a total of 6 years, and I have wanted to be a doctor ever since my elder cousin passed away in his 20’s when I was still in school. What has kept me wanting to do medicine is my love for my family. Everyone ages and I wanted to make sure I can look after, advise, and support my family as they get older.
If you don’t mind sharing, what are some of the hurdles you’ve overcome to getting to where you are now?
Where does one start? My first hurdle was getting into medical school, to begin with. I was a very smart girl in school, I went to a private school from year 7 right to 6th form. I always got A to A* grades in every subject I did.
Now let’s cast our minds back to those dreaded predicted grades for UCAS applications; despite my record, I was predicted 2 A’s and 1 B in chemistry. I was livid (bearing in mind entry requirements at the time were 3 A’s). I was fed some lingo regarding an ‘online calculator’ and that my grades could not be changed, even though my chemistry teacher knew I would get an A. In actual fact this teacher sadly passed away from cancer and I will forever be grateful for his contribution to my current position.
I applied for medicine all the same and did not get in. Low and behold my A level results were 2 A*s and 1 A, funny how life works. So with these new final grades and my previous rejections, I thought what else could exercise my want for being in the medical field, what else do I LOVE doing? I love to draw and design, so much so I have published work in AQA Design Technology textbooks for GCSE students in 2008. So I thought, I am going to study medical engineering. My end goal being to design prosthetic limbs and robotics for mobility impairments.
I moved out into my own east London flat, doing university life etc. After approximately 6/7 months, I called my parents and told them to come over to my flat as I needed to talk to them. I was crying with fear as my dad is very education orientated. When they arrived I told them “I am dropping out”, “I am meant to do medicine and I know I will do medicine, no matter what”. Like any parents they were apprehensive, but my parents did not stop me. They did not care about me going to university to fulfil societal criteria, but for me to do what will make me happy.
I re-applied after a year of working in Selfridges and received unconditional offers.
Medical school itself? It is time-consuming, to say the least. I did not study in London so there was always the dreaded ‘fear of missing out’. I remember a time in my medical education when my colleagues from a medical engineering back in London were graduating and I just thought, ‘I could be earning money by now’. I kept going. The workload increased as the years progressed and the span of knowledge I was expected to ingest was overwhelming at times but I took it in my stride.
Relationships, Relationships. I met my partner when I was working in Selfridges and I suppose that worked in my favour as we had established a strong enough relationship that long distance was not a problem for us. Do not get me wrong, the commute could be tiring, but if it is worth it, you will find a way to do it. I have colleagues that worry about finding partners because they are so far away from home or because the workload meant they had no time to socialise to find one, but I am a strong believer in things happening at the right time.
In terms of a social life, I think all universities have a degree of social interaction so it would be wrong to say that medics do not go on nights out. In fact, when we go out we actually take it to levels beyond other people because we have so much steam to burn off!
While we are taught that we can be anything we want to be, we still face challenges of being a minority whether it’s because we are women or because we are black/of African descent. What has your experience been like in regards to this?
It is a difficult topic. I have not personally been subjected to discriminatory insults to my progression so far, but that is not to say I do not know the struggles. For one I am lucky and grateful that my parents could afford a private school at approximately 12k a year, which I know is a lot of money. This could have helped me look better on paper I guess. I wonder if things would be any different for me if I did to not go to that school.
There are annoying instances more recently when, for example, working away from London in an ageing population you get asked questions like “Oh, where are you from then?”. I remember the first time something like this happened in a clinical setting I was literally boiling inside. I didn’t understand, have they not seen a black person before? Being a professional I had to bite my tongue and keep that smile on my face and ‘proceed as would in clinical practice’. It is also rather obvious that we are the minority in my medical school. I could count the number of black African and Caribbean students in my year on one hand. Whether that is a reflection of how many black people are interested in such careers or if it is a reflection of hindrance by environmental factors I do not know. But the fact remains.
In light of us recently celebrating International Women’s Day as well as recognising women throughout the month of March, how do you feel we can continue to move forward to change the status quo?
What is the status quo? This is just my opinion but lets really think about this. I am being interviewed now for Refined Currency, the founder of which is a woman. 77% of the total workforce for the NHS, are women. 46% of chief executive and director jobs in the NHS are held by women [UK Government sources]. Outside of this, I am seeing friends of mine excelling on social media platforms and acting opportunities. A friend of mine I used to work with is now the founder of a clothing line Taiwosonekan, and some of her dresses have a price point of around £400 !
My point here is that the status quo is already in the process of changing. And for those that do not want to see change, we as women and as professionals need to look elsewhere. If you want to hold something over me, if you do not want to see my progress then I will simply keep it moving. I do not need to be in competition with you, I do not need to work for you. I am in competition with myself and any shade thrown should be seen as a sign I am doing something correctly. If we maintain that attitude we will see a natural divide among those that want to help each other progress and those that exhaust their brain power hindering others. This is how I believe the status quo will continue to change.
It can be easy to look at the costs of medical school or the discipline it takes to continue on or even the initial grades one needs to gain entry, what advice would you share with those who are embarking on a similar path?
The advice I have first and foremost is to not allow yourself to be directed into a career in medicine by anyone other than yourself, not even your parents. I am a strong believer that if you do not enjoy what you are studying, you will fail it. Having said that, grades are important. I have registrars whose entry requirements were 3 Bs, so you can imagine how the standard is always changing. If medicine is what you want, show it. Do volunteer work, shadow doctors, shadow nurses, anything that shows you have an interest in people and health. Finally, if you get knocked down, get back up. If you hit a roadblock, take another route. My dad always said education is not a race.
We’d like to thank Lauren Romayne for her contribution towards Refined Currency and we wish her all the best in her medical career.
This interview was conducted and edited by Bola