The biggest role model in my life is my older brother Kodwo. He was born with a rare genetic condition called Angelman Syndrome, and I have watched him consistently strive to achieve many developmental milestones that most take for granted.
For example, when he was first diagnosed my mum was told that it was highly likely that he would never be able to walk or talk. However, Kodwo has been very determined throughout his life, and has gone on to exceed all the expectations of the medical professionals in charge of his care. He is now able to walk and communicate using some sign language.
He lives independently in his own flat with full time support and has his own routine filled with challenging and exciting things to keep him busy. It fills me with such joy knowing that everyday Kodwo is exceeding expectations in all that he does.
My motivation comes from having such a close relationship with my brother. Part of his syndrome is to have a happy demeanour which means that Kodwo is always smiling no matter how difficult he finds the challenge in front of him. Seeing him always pushing to do more whilst having a smile on his face taught me very early on to never give up. Watching him find such joy in the little things in life motivates me to always strive for more and to never take the opportunities that I encounter in life for granted.
My desire to study medicine stems from growing up with a brother with Angelman syndrome. I watched Kodwo visit medical professionals who all contributed to him achieving significant milestones and I remain thankful to those who look after him with distinction, dedication and dignity. Having this close relationship has made me appreciate the positive impact that doctors can have and I aspire to become a doctor so that I too can have that effect.
When I first thought about doing medicine at the age of 16, I didn’t see many black female doctors. It is important to me that this changes as in order to believe that you can do something it helps to see other people like you further ahead on the journey. I am keen to chart my path to show young black women that this is a career where they will succeed.
I am now in my 4th year of medicine, although I have been at St George's for six years as I initially did a degree in Biomedical Sciencese and then started Medicine in 2017. A big challenge I faced when I started was simply adjusting to university life.
It wasn't until I got to St George’s that I realised my home life was very different to a lot of my peers in that a lot of time at home was spent helping out with my brother, and because of that I wasn't very outgoing. I really struggled to settle in, but fortunately I met some great, supportive friends early on.
Another hurdle towards the end of my first year was that, after working incredibly hard, I questioned if university was for me as I felt as though my hard work was not reflecting in my grades. I had a lot of support from the University and was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia at the end of first year.
This was very helpful as it enabled me to learn more about myself and how I work best. The support has been transformative for me and enabled me to feel confident and thrive throughout my medical degree. However, I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced was actually before coming to St George’s.
My parents did not go through the university and education system in this country, they are originally from Ghana and I am part of the first generation in my family to be born in the UK. With me and my brothers being amongst the first generation in my family to go to university in the UK, we all had to work slightly harder in order to understand the written and unwritten rules of how the system worked.
The things I am proudest of during my time at St George’s are where I have worked alongside A Level students to show them what being a medical student is about and to demystify the application process for them.
I have been a St George’s student ambassador working with the university’s Widening Participation team to mentor students from schools that don’t traditionally send their pupils to medical school. One of my proudest achievements was bumping into a student that was part of my mentor group who is now at St George’s and having a great time.
It matters to me that students from less privileged backgrounds know that they can apply to university and become a doctor if they want to.
I feel as though I have grown in many ways over the last six years. I love the community here, it has a family feel and is very accepting. I love that the university is so diverse, and I feel as though because of this everyone can have a voice and be heard.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at St George’s. It has given me an opportunity to get involved in a multitude of things that really matter to me. I feel as though my experiences are invaluable, and I am excited to see what my final years at St George’s have in store.
Hannah Gyekye-Mensah, Medicine (MBBS) Student