This month marks the launch of a new campaign by Universities UK, Opportunity for Everyone, created to promote the positive impact that going to university can have. Here’s Moni Choudhury’s story, who juggled work, looking after family and her studies at St George’s, University of London to become a Physician Associate.

Moni Choudhury

calendar-icon 11 May 2018

Moni, 33, who graduated from the postgraduate Physician Associate programme in 2013, is one of eight siblings, but the only child in her family who had a desire for education. She became inspired to retrain into a job working closely with patients when she was working in a lab and came across a sample which belonged to a patient who had third degree burns.

“I found myself asking questions about the patient, feeling a desire to want to help. However, working in a lab meant I had no direct contact with patient care and I found myself wanting to do something more fulfilling for myself. So, I applied to St George’s.”

Moni initially struggled with her studies, under the pressure of supporting herself financially and her family emotionally.

“Studying this course was one of the most challenging yet rewarding times in all my student years. I had to pay my own way to survive.”

Moni’s father tried to help her financially as much as he could, but Moni ended up taking out a loan and working long hours.

“I did receive financial help from St George’s, and during my time of stress and tears, I also received some counselling at St George’s which helped a lot.”

Moni was also responsible for her elderly parents, her troubled younger brother and older sick brother.

“One of my older brothers had mental health problems and I had to make sure he was getting the right sort of help. Mental health is mostly kept hush-hush, so I had a lot of involvement in his care with the psychiatrists and social workers.

“Being the only child in the family who had a desire for education was not easy. I had to make sure my time was not wasted and that I passed the course. I also had the responsibility of making my parents proud.

“I ended up being the struggling student who would sit quietly in class, worrying about leaving early to get to work on time, despite falling behind with all class work.”

Moni’s course director noticed she was struggling so took her aside and expressed her concerns.

“She was worried about me not getting through my first year of studies. I remember telling her that I was not there to fail.

“I found myself scraping through exams. I didn't pass with flying colours, but I didn't fail either.”

Moni knew things had to change as she entered her second year of study.

“I could no longer be that struggling student. I was not going to allow it. I decided to take a step back and look at my life. Something needed to give, but I couldn't give up working.

“I wrote out a timetable and planned my revision time. I’d wake up at 5am, revise for two hours, go to my placement for the day, return home and continue revising until bedtime. I did this for eight solid months.

“Even during that time I wanted to give up. I had to sacrifice my social life and stop getting too involved with family issues, because I realised only completing this course was going to help shape my future.”

As Moni reached the end of her second year of studies, she felt more confident, seeing her hard work pay off.

“I was no longer the individual who felt like she knew nothing, whose whole world was falling apart. I knew I had everything in my grasp.

“Sitting the exams felt like a breeze. Getting one of the highest marks in class has to be one of the proudest moments of my life. I felt like everything I ever did paid off. I had proven myself to everyone around me.”

Going to university was a rewarding journey in Moni’s life and she would recommend it to everyone.

“Studying at St George's was a great experience. Had it not been for the support of my tutors and friends I would not be in the place I am right now. I was taught how to manage life and how to fend for myself.”

Moni currently works at East Surrey Hospital, completing ward rounds, liaising with different specialists within and outside the Trust, clerking patients, examining them and formulating a differential diagnosis management plan (thinking about the different conditions that might be causing their current problem).

“I feel very lucky to be at East Surrey where the staff are supportive of Physician Associates.

“The most satisfaction I get out of the job, as clichè as it sounds, is seeing my patients happy and satisfied.”

Now Moni is aiming to become the first FAMUS-accredited (Focused Acute Medicine Ultrasound) Physician Associate.

“My advice is to never give up even during the times that you feel like you are failing. The world is your oyster. Keep persevering, believe in yourself and don’t let anything get in the way of your achievements!”

Widening participation at St George's

St George’s is committed to fighting underrepresentation in healthcare. Our Widening Participation Team work with over 5,000 students, from more than 200 schools and colleges each year and offer events and activities for Year 5-13 students that are fun, practical and informative, and give students a real insight into the healthcare professions.