So while the Game of Thrones finale was a big disappointment…this blog will not be! I am currently procrastinating studying for my two upcoming tests, seminar and essay, so what better way to forget about all the work I have to do, by writing about all the work we do 😉 As a high school student and even first year university student, I always remember being curious about what the medical school course looked like – sure it would consist of mostly theory in Phase One (Years 2 – 3) and Phases Two & Three (Years 4 – 6) would involve clinical attachments at various hospitals in the upper North Island, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll crave a detailed breakdown of each part (yay for lists!). Here’s what we study in Phase One (Years 2 – 3) of Medical School. 


1) Modules

Throughout the year we study in short modules (6-8 weeks) at a time. Each module is usually based around an organ system in the body. For our lectures, researchers and doctors teach us about anatomy (how things look) and physiology (how things work). We extremely grateful to also have many opportunities in lectures where patients with the relevant condition come in to talk about their experiences.

The modules I am studying (procrastinating) right now!


2) Labs (Dissection & Microanatomy)

We have two main types of labs. Most exciting are our Human Anatomy Labs where we learn from cadavers which have been donated for our learning. It’s an eye-opening experience and something that people usually have lots of mixed feelings about before starting medical school – a combination of feeling unsure/curious/nervous/excited! However, the University does a great job of easing us into it and by the time you’re in third year, you’ll be really comfortable with the idea. A group of ~10 medical students are assigned to the same cadaver all year, together you’ll finally see what you’ve learnt in lectures and textbooks in real life. We also have microanatomy labs, where we look into microscopes and look at the finer details of organs and tissues in the module we’re studying at the time.


3) Clinical Skills

Unlike lectures where all ~280 of us squeeze into one lecture theatre, we are broken up into small groups to learn the clinical and practical skills relevant to each module. We learn things like how to use stethoscopes, take blood pressure measurements, perform an abdominal exam, and take a patient history. Most of the time we practice on each other, but sometimes actors come in to help us out (as we usually just end up laughing too much when doing them on each other haha!).

“The Red Book” aka our bible for Medicine


4) Small Group Discussions

In groups of ~10 medical students, we basically sit in a circle (group therapy vibes?), and discuss thought-provoking topics related to Medicine, patient scenarios with difficult ethical dilemmas, and always encourage some healthy argument and debate! As our cohort is quite big, it is an opportunity to share your own opinions freely in a small group.


5) Early Life Development Study

When we started medical school, we are assigned to a family and their newborn baby. You visit your little baby with your partner every few months over the next two years, collecting some information about it’s milestones and development for a study. Sounds hard and complicated but in reality, it’s mostly playing with a cute baby (how fun?!) and having a lovely chat with Mum & Dad. It gives us exposure to being around the little-est patients we’ll see as doctors, especially those who didn’t have younger siblings (like me!).

All work and ALL play makes Sonna a very happy gal!


6) Portfolio

Near the end of the degree, we submit a huge portfolio full of reflection, writing, poetry and art (lots of freedom to be creative with this!), that we’ve developed over the years. As lot of the medical course can feel super information-overloaded, without space to stop and think, this is a great chance to be creative with what you want to do!


7) Progress Tests

Every few months, we have a progress test, with questions based on clinical scenarios, and what to do in each patient case. This test is taken by EVERY Auckland University medical student across all years, at the same time. Basically by the end of your medical degree, you should be able to confidently answer everything in this test, so as a second or third year medical student it can seem super hard – but we try our best with what we know. It helps us to see our progress over the years of medical school and checks that we’re doctor-ready when we finish!


Years 2 & 3 of medical school are basically identical (with the format above), but Year 3 has the addition of these things:


8) Basic Life Support

In Year 3, we start attending practical sessions at the University of Auckland Tamaki Campus (such a mission to get to, but totally worth it! 😉 ) where we learn at a simulation centre what to do when someone stops breathing, their heart stops, choking etc (think advanced first aid), as well as inserting IV lines (which we’ll be trying out for the first time later this year, exciting!).


9) Medical Humanities

We get to choose one of many different humanities papers to study for a semester in Year 3. Basically they’re all still related to Medicine but with a history, ethics, art, classics twist! They are usually taught by lecturers unrelated to the Medical School, so it’s quite a refreshing course. We discuss readings and what’s happening in the world, have cool guest speakers and present our own seminars after researching a topic of our choice.

Working on my Seminar for my humanities paper: History of Medicine


10) Hospital placements

In semester two of Year 3, we start going into hospitals (North Shore, Auckland City or Middlemore) for one afternoon every week. This is like a little taster of life ahead and to get used to the hospital environment before we start in hospitals full-time next year. Quite glad the course is set up like this as translating your theory and clinical skills that you’ve learned in medical school to actual patients is harder than it seems (and we need all the practice we can get haha!).


So as you can see, the medical course is made up of lots of little bits and pieces which all come together to give us a comprehensive understanding of what we learn and lots of opportunities to learn and re-learn!

– Sonna