Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cambridge Medics Get Their MTAS Kicked

Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, kicks me in the MT-ASS
(Yes, that's my sad face. Yes, I forgot to put make-up on, okay?)

I haven't blogged in a while*, and whilst I'd like to say that this is actually because I've been acting like a proper Cambridge medic and making love to Biochemistry textbooks in my college library, it's actually because I've been plain lazy. And just today I read another profound blog post that made me realise just why I'm being so lazy, but I'll save that for the next post, which will be a Hollywood-esque jam-packed tale of ambition, success, failure, and Donald Trump. (No, it's not going to be an Apprentice review, though good guess! These guys do a much better job than I could. --Editor)

Anyhoo, more MTAS bad news! All that I know about MTAS comes from the medblogs out there that do a terrific job of covering the madness it's unleashed on the wards. But it turns out that there's more to MTAS than just the nonsense affecting junior doctors. The geniuses behind it all, not content with culling working doctors, decided to get right to the root of the problem - medical schools.

As I learnt from the Cambridge representative to the BMA Medical School Conference, in addition to the questionnaire part and the reference part, there's an academic part for medical students to be ranked by their medical schools upon graduation. Once the students are ranked academically, they are divided into 4 quartiles.

Oxford and Cambridge reps to the Conference argued that this system is intrinsically biased against universities with more stringent admissions criteria and tougher exams, like themselves. This is because students at these universities would have to put in more work and sit for tougher exams than students at other universities ranked in the same quartile. Similar motions were put forward by both reps, but they failed to pass because, in the rep's words, "as you must understand the other British medical school representatives at the BMA were not very sympathetic with this idea".

Whoa whoa wait! Before you start lobbing rotten vegetables (and certain forms of animal excrement, for those of you who used up all your rotten vegetables after my last post --Ed) at me for being an arrogant arse, let me say that I do not actually know if Oxford and Cambridge have tougher exams than other universities. Certainly some people seem to think so. But from what I've seen of other universities' courses (and I've been to quite a few other unis - time away from Cambridge is like a drug holiday for an antidepressant user suffering sexual dysfunction --Ed) the only difference that I noticed was that courses elsewhere seemed more...enjoyable. To my clinical-starved self, at least.

So what does this mean? Does it matter? Will it make a difference in four years when we graduate and get spat out into the workforce? I don't know. Should I be bothered? Probably. But not right now, because it's almost 9am and I hear my supervisor coming. If anyone asks, I've been in the library all night.

*yes, I'm going to pretend that some of you out there actually care. I'm young, okay. Let me dream! --Ed.


matt of comooxdom said...

I wouldn't worry. When you graduate you will probably go to work 'underground' doing botched circumcisms and creating brand new genetalia out of crisp packets, coke bottles and blue tubing. mmmmm.

Jason said...

Hmmm...judging from that pic you have up there I'd say you weren't spending enough lovemaking time with your textbooks.

Well, time for me to continue mugging for my next paper tomorrow. I've spent my 5 minutes self-imposed break reading your blog. Gah.

All the best in your exams!

dan said...

hmm. you look better here than in real life.

zewt said...

no matter what... to say "i graduated from cambridge" is good enough to show 'superiority'... i guess having tougher exams is something you just have to go through.

eh, do u get free consultation when u return? haha!

the little medic said...

I think i've moaned before about the prospect of academic ranking.

Firstly I'd like to say that from what I know Cambrdige exams are about 4 million times harder than those at my medical school.

The exams at my medical school seem fairly stupid, and now our SSC results are to be included in our academic ranking its even more ridiculous. These SSC results are based entirely on a consultants opinion of you for the 3 or 4 weeks you spend with them, its 100% subjective.

Currently I'm in the 2nd quartile but I could easily drop into the 3rd before the end of this year. I probably don't deserve my ranking but hey, I don't care, if it gets me a higher ranked job then woohoo.

I don't like it within medical schools never mind considering all the med schools together. The only way a true ranking could work is to have a standardised exam which every medical student takes and which a ranking is determined by. This is virtually impossible.

The ranking system is here to say, it would have been nice if they'd told us before we sat all the exams by hey, this is MTAS, pile of wank that it is. How they can look retrospectively at exams and rank us, despite us not knowing this would happen when we sat the exams is beyond me.

The whole thing is a farce, every medical school is different and there are even differences within medical schools.

Just work as hard as you can. (If i'd have been at cam I'd be firmly in the last quartile) Hopefully I'll stay in the 2nd quartile. But i'm there more through luck than knowledge (that says something about our exams)

(this is a ranty stupid comment which makes no sense but its hard to sum up my feeelings on this topic by text)

Now get back to revision, bitch, before I slap you.

HospitalPhoenix said...

Academic wanking pretty much covers this entire post, doesn't it?

Do remember to use a condom. You don't want to stick the pages together.

Dr. Deb said...

You are getting really good with photoshopping!

Anonymous said...

sounds like someone's been wanking in the library! heh

and agree with you there about the level of examinations in other universities. an example of a question my friend from another uni asked for help on (more or less what i remembered anyway)

Q2. Where is McBurney's point located?
a) 1/3 along a line drawn from the umbillicus to Antierior Superior Iliac Spine
b) 1/3 along line drawn from Anterior Superior Iliac Spine
c) Above the vermiform appendix
d) (i cant remember what it was again)

and we here are expected to write a whole 3.5 page essay on McBurneys point. gah.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm a 2nd yr from cambridge too. The student BMA conference was a pile of shit, really. I would say we pull out of this stupid organisation. How do we do that?

the problem is, other medical schools were obviously feeling insecure - as they objected to cambridge/oxford's motion of increasing the academic weight.

personally i manage to do stuff outside academic work, but I would be able to do so much more if I were at, say, Hull and York medical school.

so what we need is to take that into account - if you are at other med schools, then obviously extracurriculars can count for more.

but if you're at cambridge, clearly academic results should matter!

oh, the ranking. that's rubbish, too. our exams are so much harder than other med schools. I know it - i've seen BOTH the course material and the exams. they do not get a whole exam question on the "Compare and contrast the neural basis of spatially-localised receptive fields in the auditory and visual pathways." or "Compare and contrast the functionally significant and clinically relevant features of the
pleural, pericardial and peritoneal sacs. How are these features related to the
embryological development of these sacs?"

enough said. back to work.

Anonymous said...

Don't be such a bunch of arrogant pricks.

Medical school turns students into junior doctors. The doctors from one school are not any better than those from another.

If you can't hack the style of teaching and examination at Cambridge, then get the hell out of there. Go to one of the wanky medical schools instead - you'll learn all the same stuff but in a different way.

So please. Talk all you want about different teaching styles, but don't become the twatty cambridge stereotype who thinks he's better and cleverer and has passed harder exams than other medics. Get over yourselves.

Anonymous said...

"Medical school turns students into junior doctors. The doctors from one school are not any better than those from another."

Sitting harder exams doesnt make one a better doctor. I never said that.

"If you can't hack the style of teaching and examination at Cambridge, then get the hell out of there. Go to one of the wanky medical schools instead - you'll learn all the same stuff but in a different way."

No you do not. I am coping well thank you very much. Other med schools do not learn as much detail as we do. sorry, that's the truth. I know it's hard to appreciate that.

it's not arrogrance you twat. i am just saying because we have a more academic course, the system should take that into account. academic stuff should count more for us, whereas extracurriculars can count more for other medschools

do you learn all the details of positive and negative supercoiling, the binding sites for glycogen phosphorylase, the binding site for tetracycline on the ribosomes?

No, I did not think so.


Anonymous said...

You're the moron.

Medical schools all over the UK use the same textbooks. Cambridge students don't get examined on anything which hasn't been discovered yet, and non-Cambridge medical students don't have their knowledge dumbed down (unless they're at Hull or UEA - joke). They use textbooks too. There's not a separate body of medical knowledge for students at thicko medical schools. They learn the same stuff as you.

So as I said earlier, get over yourselves. And get out a bit. I'd want a doctor with come extracurricular activities under their belt, not a lonely twat who sat in and wanked over ribosomes. Normal medical students get their work done AND have extracurricular activities to enjoy. They have a life AND they become good doctors.

So tell me what's so great about you now then, moron?

Anonymous said...

actually, i have many extracurricular activites. but this is HARDER to achieve at cambridge medical school than at others.


Anonymous said...

fight! fight! fight! yay!

Merys said...

alright, Im staying clear of the arguments, but I do want to say: Check your emails!

HospitalPhoenix said...

actually, i have many extracurricular activites. but this is HARDER to achieve at cambridge medical school than at others.

Not wanting to jon in the fight, but could you tell us WHY this is harder at Cambridge than elsewhere?

I'm not trying to have a dig, just interested. I did a traditional course in 5 years; learned all the seemingly useless minutiae, and never considered complaining about it. What's different for Cambridge students?

Merys! Glad to see you alive and well, m'dear :)

Anonymous said...

sorry I meant there is a lot more detail to learn at a traditional course such as oxbridge (and edinburgh?)- as most other schools have intergrated courses

Anonymous said...

oh what i meant was that it's more difficult to get the same amount of extracurricular activities done if you're at somewhere intensive like cambridge - as we only 8 weeks! or indeed at traditional schools who have more things to learn

HospitalPhoenix said...

sorry I meant there is a lot more detail to learn at a traditional course such as oxbridge (and edinburgh?)- as most other schools have intergrated courses

No need to apologise to me! I'm probably not qualified to judge (as a graduate of a non-cambridge trad course) but I'm genuinely interested.

Perhaps it is the shorter terms. Or the generally competitive, academic atmosphere. I don't know.

What I do know is that nobody has studied medicine at more than one medical school, and therefore nobody is really able to judge the differences from a student's point of view!

Good luck to all of you who have studying to do and exams coming up :)

The Angry Medic said...

Wowsers! Exactly the fight I was hoping to avoid. Calm down guys, I didn't want to judge or make any assumptions about who's busier than whom. I see enough egotistical assholery here at Cambridge (with all the different subjects claiming they're busier than the others) to know just how annoying it can be. We've all got our own battles to fight on our own battlefields.

(The shorter terms do suck, though.)

Like HP said above!

The Angry Medic said...

Matt of Comooxdom: Why, what prescience! Just the other day I was contemplating flunking out right now and getting along by telling everyone "I went to Cambridge, therefore I know my stuff, peasant". Only I was thinking of becoming a politician instead of a back-alley bum, but hey, who can tell the difference nowadays?

Really funny site, btw. Have added you to my links!

Jason: You LIIIIVE! And not only that, you graced my blog with your presence, even if it was for 5 minutes! (Get back to work, you lazy bum.) Where's your new blog? You wouldn't be forgetting your old pal now wouldja?

Dan: It's an illusion. I don't put make-up on for you, see. How else do you think I get mobbed by hot young nurses every time I go to hospital?

Zewt:...do I get free consultation when I return, or will I be GIVING free consultations? :) if it's the latter, say goodbye to queues, my friend. Say the word and I'll invent a medical emergency for you and let you jump queue. Which would you prefer, acute appendicitis, heart attack, or alien egg hatching in your stomach? :)

Little Medic: I can understand just how you feel about this whole malarkey mate. I'm gonna keep my head down and hope Labour doesn't win before we graduate.

Oh, and "Now get back to revision, bitch, before I slap you" made me PISS MYSELF LAUGHING.

HospitalPhoenix: oh. oh GAWD. *represses horrible, horrible mental images* And you said I was getting dirty-mouthed?

Dr Deb: Awww, you noticed! I slaved over that pic. Even got an authentic Soviet uniform for Patsy. Thanks for the kind words! (Now I'm blushing. I DO NOT BLUSH.)

Merys: Whoopsies. Yes dear.

Anonymous said...

I was going to say something dodgy/funny about making love to your textbooks, but i drew a blank. so please think up one and insert funny comment here --->

(oh and why biochem? you're not even doing biochem anymore...unless you felt the sudden urge to read up replication forks)


zewt said...

ah yes, i think i made a big boo boo... i meant...

will i get free consultation when you return? hahaha.... say no to queue then!

Anonymous said...

no the glycogen phosphorylase was the first thing that came into my mind. but no, i hated biochem, lol.

lesser being of leisure said...

"egotistical assholery" :)

Good luck on the exams. Can't say that I envy you the pleasure :)

Andrew said...

What an interesting fight...

For another perspective on things, I'm a graduate entry medical student from Derby, our pre-clinical course for 18 months and to be honest I don't even understand the question about spatial localisation, and I vaguely remember ribosomes exist. Though, to be honest having started the clinical course the small amount of biochem I do know has proved to be mostly pointless. I'd probably make a crap researcher though...

So yes, Cambridge exams do look much harder then ours. But then, you have had rather a bit longer to learn things for them. The other point is that even if Cambridge/Oxford choose to have more academically orientated courses why should that be reflected in the MTAS? The MTAS is a (deeply flawed) attempt to find the people who have the best qualities to be a clinician. Not the best biochemist/anatomist/etc.

w00t said...

to be honest (reading from the comments below) i looked at the cambridge medical school exam and ur right it is alot harder. I am from a PBL med school and we cant even begin to compare exams. However most of the questions i thought were ok and pretty fair game as i love basic medical sciences (sad, yes i know) but when most of my m8s saw them they didnt even know what the questions asked.
Ps learning binding sites of tetracyline maybe fair game but of phosphorlayse damn man tht must piss u guys of so clinically irrelevant.
Note i only saw the trphos 1b exam