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In the JRSM last year, Sir David Weatherall1 expressed concern about the narrow education of young people who enter medical school. One aspect is the possibility that they have chosen the wrong career and will eventually drop out.
The decision to study medicine is influenced by parents, teachers, friends or society. Many applicants do not completely understand the responsibilities of physicians and cannot be sure they are suited to the profession. A knowledge of how medical personnel work in a hospital will help them make a good decision. In the academic year 2000, the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital declared that the 115 students selected by the Faculty and the other 115 students selected by the Ministry of University Affairs must have at least 10 days' experience in assisting the services of government hospitals. The 10 days do not need to be consecutive, must be completed during 10th-12th grade, and may be performed on either weekdays or weekends. It is up to the director of the individual hospital to consider how to optimize the student's individual experience. It is also at the discretion of the director to arrange work in the hospital for the students—to feed and converse with patients, retrieve patients in the outpatient setting, write transfer orders, assist doctors examining or treating the patients and so on. Students who live in provincial areas can contact hospitals near their homes while those who live in the Bangkok Metropolitan area can work at Siriraj Hospital.
When students complete their experience in the hospital, they will receive a certificate from the hospital director. They will then be asked to submit this certificate along with all required documents when they apply to take the entrance examination organized by the Faculty and by the Ministry of University Affairs. The Faculty has been developing this project for eight years with successful results.
From personal experience I can say that this project is successful. My second daughter was keen to study medicine and applied for this project; however, after only three days of experience she realized that the medical profession was not for her, and she is now a successful accountant. My youngest daughter likewise entered the project and loved it. She is now a fourth year medical student with a good academic record.
I thank Sir Iain Chalmers for encouraging me to write this letter.