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By Antonia Ward

Exploring Scotland through ScotGEM

3 min
Antonia Ward standing on mountain with scenic background

Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine, or ScotGEM, is a medical programme designed for doctors interested in a career in general practice within NHS Scotland.

The programme is tailored to meet the current and future needs of NHS Scotland, and focuses on rural medicine and healthcare improvement.

It’s taught in partnership with the universities of St Andrews and Dundee, and in collaboration with NHS Fife, NHS Tayside, NHS Highland, NHS Dumfries and Galloway, and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Here, recent ScotGEM graduate, Antonia Ward, shares her experience of exploring Scotland while studying.

Exploring Scotland while studying

Four years ago I moved from England to St Andrews to begin medical school. I feel very lucky to have called St Andrews home. The town has a lot to offer, including a beautiful harbour and a great selection of beaches.

Castle Sands is one of the most picturesque beaches in the area. It’s also home to a few species of seal, so it’s a great place to relax and take in the sights of nature.

East Sands and West Sands (next to the old course, which is the home of golf) are great places to take a dip. There's also a variety of trails and walks that allow you to take in stunning scenery.

The beauty of ScotGEM is that it has partnerships with four health boards in Scotland. So, there are opportunities for placements from as far north as Orkney to as far west as Campbeltown.

After a year in St Andrews, the first stop for me was Dumfries and Galloway, which has a wonderful, newly built hospital. Star gazing in Galloway International Dark Sky Park was one of the many highlights of being there.

My second stop on rotation in year two was Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. During this time, I enjoyed swimming in the breathtaking Loch Ness, often looking for the Loch Ness Monster.

In my third year I was placed at a rural GP practice near John O’Groats, where my supervisor threw a welcome Highland games party for me and the other students. We had such a fun time playing traditional Scottish games like caber tossing and tossing the hay. It was a very special experience, and I even got to try out some of the traditional Scottish dances.

During this year, I enjoyed my time in the Highlands and went to visit friends on the islands, competing the Tiree 10k run and exploring Skara Brae, the best-preserved Neolithic settlement in Western Europe.

The weather in the Highlands can be unpredictable, but the warmth of the people and the beauty of the area made up for it. I was even lucky enough to experience the Northern Lights on a clear night, which was an unforgettable moment.

Final thoughts

The experiences I have had over the last four years have been truly unforgettable and I feel very fortunate to have shared it with friends. I feel privileged to have been able to explore so many wonderful places, and to have obtained a better understanding of the Scottish healthcare system.

The memories I have made will stay with me for a lifetime and I cannot recommend the course enough.

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