The first BMA virtual freshers' festival

Highlights and takeaways from #BMAFreshers2020.

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 3 November 2020

Connecting medical students from across the UK

On Wednesday 14 October, a large number of UK medical students joined us at our very first BMA Virtual Freshers Festival for a fantastic afternoon of inspiring discussions and invaluable insight into what it takes to survive your first year at medical school.

In a normal year, we would be visiting schools up and down the country in person, introducing BMA services to freshers and helping them make the most of the resources we offer — but this is not a normal year.

Due to COVID-19, we held this year’s event online to ensure we could connect with the national network of medical students and collaborate on presenting hot topics for this year’s freshers.

The main objective of the event was to bring students together and provide support during what has been a challenging time for us all. Over 750 students logged in on the day to meet with other students and doctors, share their experiences and gain the tips and tricks they need to kick-start their career in medicine.

‘Don’t be afraid to fail’ Live Q&A with Dr Alex George

The first Q&A session of the afternoon was hosted by A&E and TV doctor, Dr Alex George, who you may recognise from Love Island, Lorraine, or his own podcast, The Waiting Room. The session focused on the importance of mental health and the challenges that could face this year’s cohort during medical school and beyond. Dr Alex drew upon his own experiences and, as an advocate for mental health, offered a plethora of useful tips for students, including:

  • Don’t be afraid to fail — use this year to learn how to persevere
  • Embrace the highs and lows on your journey to becoming a doctor
  • take time to enjoy or pick up hobbies and activities Outside of medicine.

It proved to be one of the most popular sessions of the day, providing helpful insight into life as a doctor and maintaining a good work-life balance.

I enjoyed Dr Alex’s talk especially, talking about mental health, how he failed and how it made him persevere. It was inspiring
First year medical student

Learning revision tips from the experts

In another popular session from the day, Dr Matt Morgan, intensive care doctor, author and BMJ OnExamination expert, shared his top tips for exam success. This was particularly relevant to students today, as they face the shift towards online learning and rising concerns over what less face-to-face time might mean for summer exams.

‘Everyone knows it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something, the lesser known reality is that you’ll face 10,000 exam questions before you get there.’ – Dr Matt Morgan

Key takeaways included the importance of using your time efficiently. In quoting the late, great Professor Dumbledore, ‘It’s not your abilities in life, it’s the choices you make that are important’, Dr Morgan told us how to motivate yourself with the 80:20 rule and how to follow the ‘Coat Hanger’ rule to ensure you understand a concept before diving into the finer details.

Make the most of your medical community – with BMA and beyond!

Chris Smith, a final year graduate medical student at the University of Southampton kicked off the ‘Wish I knew’ discussions by sharing his experiences at medical school and what he wished he had known as a fresher, offering life-changing advice to help students succeed in their first year.

Make the most of the medical school community and connect with academics and professionals to gain that invaluable insight, work experience and social connection
Chris Smith

Chris also highlighted some of the great BMA resources available to freshers that he wished he had used more, such as OnExamination, available for free this year, as well as a number of different events, mental health and financial support services. He highlighted the wellbeing services offered as part of BMA membership before answering just some of the many questions that came in during the session.  

…and everything else!

These are just some of the fantastic sessions from the day. We also had speakers from the BMA discussing the impact of COVID-19 on medicine, a live Q&A with founder of the Food Medic Dr Hazel Wallace, before finishing with a live Q&A with the BMJ and GP trainee, Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya on life post-medical school. Check out the full agenda below, and log in now to catch up on any sessions you missed or would like to revisit.

Catch up on all the action with the on-demand video

The #BMAFreshers2020 live event was a fantastic experience for all involved, with an array of captivating topics and speakers addressing some of the key challenges and pain points facing this years’ medical students. Attendees were able to connect and network with other students from across the UK, share advice and participate in our competitions — congrats to all of the winners of our fantastic prize giveaway!

And while all good things must come to an end, our virtual festival hasn’t closed its grounds just yet. You still have until the end of December to make the most of all of the fantastic sessions from the day! 

Thanks to all who attended the 2020 BMA Virtual Freshers Festival. We hope to meet with you in person when it is safe to do so, but until then, remember to check out all of the BMA resources to support your studies, wellbeing and career goals this year — and for the next five or more!