Refaat Hassan was born in Bournemouth, UK. Aged seven, he moved to Egypt and lived there for seven years before returning to England in time for his A Levels.

Refaat has just completed his sixth year of Medicine, achieving a Distinction in his Medical Qualifying Exam.


So what attracted you to Medicine?

“I decided to do Medicine when I was maybe 16, so relatively late in the journey. I was always interested in science and, as a kid, I wanted some more real-world applicability to science. I enjoyed helping people – so I had some relatively naive thoughts about what that might mean. Medicine brought this all together and I thought I would really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of dealing with patients.

“I did two weeks work experience before applying – that covered orthopaedics and haematology, oncology, blood cancer. And, based on that work experience, I just thought I’d really enjoy it.”

Do you know the area of Medicine you want to specialise in?

“Yes, so when I entered the clinical course, I kind of had a list of things, specialties I might like to do. I thought I wanted to do neuroscience, but what I fell in love with was anesthesia - so putting people to sleep - and intensive care medicine. So that's what I want to focus on, and I think maybe I could link my work as an anesthetist to my interest in neuroscience too.

“Anesthesia involves a lot of maths, a lot of pharmacology, and a lot of physiology, which I found I really enjoyed.”

Taking your six years in Cambridge as a whole, have you enjoyed it?

“Yes, I have really enjoyed my time here. I’m slightly sad to leave but also ready to move on.

“I'm really grateful that I was here between the ages of 18 and 24, because those are massive, formative years. I'm very fortunate to have had those years in Cambridge."

And Sidney?

“Sidney has been really friendly and warm, and very social. I found it very easy to make friends and to strike up conversations with my fellow students. Everyone's very open. I’ve made some really good friends, hopefully for life.”

“As a College, I think it's the right size. Sometimes, if a College is really big, people only have friends in that College. Sidney is, I think, 110, 120 students per year. So, it's kind of similar to the size of my school. I think that was quite good in terms of the transition. I made good friends in my year and in the years above and below. I also made friends in other Colleges, partly through my course.

And how has your academic support been?

“It's been good. I really enjoy the system, because in Medicine it's four or five people to one supervisor. So, you get to explore the course content in a lot more detail than you would be able to alone in your room, or in a bigger tutorial group of say 10, 20 people.

“The supervisors are good because they tell you what you don't know you don't know, if that makes sense. They lead you in the right direction.

“The system also works really well because it's a safety net. If you were to miss your supervisions for a week, it would be noted straight away. Your Director of Studies would email you to check that everything's okay and see what's going on.

“It's never happened to me, but I have friends who've gone through something and their Director of Studies has made provisions to help them through the year, to mitigate the effect on their exams, and so on.

“There’s a similar thing with the porters, because if they notice something, they can also escalate it to the Wellbeing team or the Senior Tutor.

“That’s one thing I like about Sidney, and Cambridge in general: any problems get detected relatively quickly.”

So, you mentioned that you’ve spent your formative years in Cambridge, from when you were 18. You’re now 24. So, if you were to meet a 17 or 18 year old who's considering coming to Cambridge to study Medicine, what would you say?

“I'd say definitely apply.

"Definitely apply, even if you don't think you're good enough, because you probably are. And if you get a place, then make sure you make the most of it."

“Try a bunch of different societies. I joined the Effective Altruism Society. Effective Altruism is about donating money as effectively as possible, so it goes to charities that have the maximum impact on people.

“I was also on Sidney JCR for two years. I was in charge of the entertainment, so I was throwing bops, club nights, movie nights, karaoke nights. That was really fun.

“And I’d also say to try some sports. Even if you're not good at sport, as a medic you're here for six years. So, you should be pretty darn good by the time you leave! I played football in my first year, and mixed netball for maybe two years, which was super fun, very social.

“Remember also that in Cambridge you have three eight-week terms, so 24 weeks in total. So, you have over half the year when you’re not here, and that includes three months in the summer when you don't have any commitments. My advice for that time is to definitely do something outside the UK.

“You can apply for a travel grant from Sidney. What you do with it has to be culturally enriching, so I went to Egypt and did an advanced Arabic course. I stayed in Cairo for a while and really immersed myself.”

So, you've completed your time in College and done very well – you got a Distinction. What’s next?

“Well, I'm going to do my Foundation Year 1 in London, at St. Thomas' hospital. And then I think I am going to go to America.

“I've done the American Board exams. I'd like to train there and then see what else the world offers after that. I want to explore new places, and see different cultures. I mean, this sounds like such a generic life plan, but I am really keen to travel and see the world.”



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