Graduating in the midst of a Global Pandemic
I think it’s fair to say that nobody could have envisioned the events that have taken place this year... At the start of the year I boldly declared “2020 is my year!” There were many milestones I would achieve this year; graduating from medical school and turning 25 were two of the most significant. In celebration of these, I had planned a trip to Bali immediately after my final year exams, followed by a 5-week trip to Barbados for my medical elective. I was particularly determined to make sure I travelled this year as my last trip abroad was in 2018.
The thought of my upcoming trips served as a great source of motivation for me during my final year of medical school. As many of you would know, medical school is no walk in the park! The studying can seem endless and every academic year, it seemed our holidays were progressively shortened. By the end of the course, I definitely began feeling my candle was burning out. However, with the final year of the course being the most important, there was no time for coasting. I worked tirelessly throughout my final year of medical school. When I had moments of feeling fatigued, disheartened or hopeless; I would remind myself of the awesome travel plans I had, and my hope and determination were quickly renewed.
In light of this, when the UK declared a national lockdown and travel restrictions were eventually put in place, I felt a great sense of loss. The lockdown happened just before my 25th birthday and so as well as my travel plans being cancelled, I didn’t get to celebrate my 25th birthday as planned. In addition to this, my final year OSCE examinations were cancelled, and our written exam was changed to an online assessment. Graduating from medical school without doing OSCE exams is unheard of! These were, indeed, strange times to be living in.
I remember sitting in my sister’s living room to do my online assessment, the assessment that would determine if I became a doctor! This was a room that I had often used to study or do mock examinations. As such, sitting my actual end of year assessment in the same room felt surreal!
Two weeks after the assessment, we received our results by email. I hesitantly opened the email, bracing myself for the attachment I would need to open with my results. However, the results were written in the email itself! As soon as I saw “Dear Dr Armitage” I was absolutely thrilled. I had passed and I was now officially a doctor! I did a post on LinkedIn about this, and the response was phenomenal – over 1.5 million views and 50 000 likes. Here is the link to the post - https://bit.ly/3dKnF1L
After passing exams, we were given the opportunity to start work early. The pandemic placed a lot of pressure on medical resources so as well as retired doctors being invited back to work, newly qualified doctors were welcomed early as Interim Foundation Doctors. I decided against this because my plan had always been that after graduating, I would spend time focusing on the development of my charity (www.armitagefoundation.com). It was important to me that my charity had a strong foundation before I entered the busy world of working as a junior doctor.
Due to the pandemic, graduation was of course cancelled and instead, we had an online graduation. I was thrilled to receive an invitation to say the vote of thanks and pledge on behalf of my cohort. Here is the link to my speech - https://bit.ly/2PBLUVZ
In summary, the first half of 2020 has been a real roller coaster journey. Despite many of my plans falling through, there have been a multitude of blessings amidst this global storm. I think it is important to take stock of all that there is to be grateful for. Gratitude gives way to contentment, and contentment, gives you a reason to smile even in the most dire circumstances.
To call myself Dr Leanne Destiny Armitage is a gift beyond measure and a source of great contentment.