Access to HE Provides the ‘Medicine’ for Aspiring Doctor

A dedicated and hard-working student has overcome serious illness and setbacks, and is closing in on her ambition to be a doctor – thanks in part to an Access to Medicine course at City and Islington College. Sian Roberts has battled with Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos syndrome (EDS), a genetic connective tissue disorder, from the age of 15.

Suffering with joint pain, instability, fatigue, migraine, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), Sian’s education was profoundly affected. After completing her GCSEs, she started her A Levels, but sadly had to drop out due to her condition. 

For years Sian continued to suffer and ended up bed-bound for months. In 2017, at the age of 23, she received the surgery that she had been waiting for and was given a new lease of life. Although she still suffers chronic health conditions, her experiences with health and the healthcare system sparked an interested in medicine and how the body works. 

Although she had missed many years of education, she is resolute in reaching her goal of becoming a doctor. She knew the best route to medical school was through the Access to Medicine course at CANDI, which she successfully completed in 2019. Sian is now a second-year medical student at St George’s University of London and well on her way to making her dream a reality.  

“I consider myself lucky. Although I still have chronic health conditions, I’m well enough to move forward with my life. Because I had been out of education for a while, I had very little confidence in my academic ability, but I really wanted to study medicine. After a lot of research, I knew my best option was an Access to Higher Education course which is aimed at over 19’s who don’t have the necessary qualifications to get into university. I applied to two colleges in London and after attending the open evening and interview, I knew CANDI was for me. Everyone was so friendly and supportive. 

“Starting the Access course felt very daunting as it was a big life change for me. The environment at the college and the friendly staff and students quickly eased my nerves. The teachers were all incredibly knowledgeable in their subject area and were supportive and approachable. They were aware of my health issues and were incredibly flexible, allowing me attend other classes when I had hospital appointments that clashed with my timetable. I also had contact with the disabilities advisor and was given additional support with exams. My tutor, Imran Ahmed, was not only incredibly supportive, understanding and kind, but also managed to convert me to liking physics! 

“The Access course really prepared me for the first year of medical school. The course is intense and covers everything that’s needed to start studying a medical or healthcare degree. It gave me a great foundation to then build upon in my first year of university. 

“Because of my health, education is something that I will never take for granted. I loved my time at CANDI and was determined to make the most of the course and do as well as I could. I had very little academic confidence when I started. Because of my health and its impact on my education, I felt I wasn’t good enough to achieve anything. But the positive experience and support that I had at CANDI really helped me to develop confidence in my own ability and go on to medical school.

“It’s natural to feel apprehensive and nervous about starting something new, I certainly did. But for mature students, Access courses are an amazing route to university. Being a mature student, you have a lot to offer and can bring different life experiences to the table. It’s a lot of work but rewarding and enjoyable. It’s all been worth it to now be studying my dream course at my first choice of university. I’d really encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to take that leap and do it!”

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