Life in Liverpool and the DTM&H

17 Sep 2015

Vanessa Yarwood, DTMH 2015


Hi. This is a blog about my experiences whilst doing the Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (DTM&H) at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM). I have been keen to write a blog for a while as they are all the rage at the moment, so here I am sat writing!

A bit of background about myself first: I have just completed my Foundation Programme (A two-year work-based training programme which bridges the gap between medical school and specialty/GP training) in the West Midlands, where I also went to medical school. I have chosen to take a gap year for various reasons, including studying for the DTM&H and to gain experience working in a resource-poor environment, both of which I have longed to do for some time. I also have not figured out my desired career path, and so did not feel in a position, after my Foundation Programme, to make a decision about what speciality training I should start. I have felt a strong desire to get off the ‘NHS treadmill’ too. I have gone from school, to medical school, to working as a doctor, and feel I need some time out to work out what I want from life and how I am going to achieve it.

So, here I am! In Liverpool, up North! Liverpool is a city that I haven’t contemplated much about in the past, having had friends in Manchester who talk a lot about that city and little about this one. Coming from a city that feels dry of any form of culture, Liverpool seems bursting to the brim with it. Liverpool’s location on the edge of the Irish Sea and with easy access to the Atlantic Ocean seems to be one of the reasons for this. Before I came up to Liverpool, my granny told me of her experience of Liverpool. It was the beginning of World War Two and she (aged 11) and her younger sister were evacuated out of Liverpool to Canada for 4 years during the war. I can only imagine how scared she must have been about this momentous journey and the prospect of two weeks on sea. Fortunately her journey was without event, but the same was not true for the next ship that left, which was bombed by a German U-boat. Liverpool was also an important port for trade, including slaves, and I would highly recommend a visit to the Liverpool Maritime Museum if you’re interested in a bit of history.

There seems to be a wealth of independent venues in Liverpool: shops, delis, cafés, bars, restaurants and music venues, some of which I have already explored – one thing about the DTM&H, for certain, is that it is very sociable! The majority of students seem new to the city and keen to explore and make friends, which is very much on my wavelength.

OK, so what about the DTM&H itself, the reason why I am here and doing this blog! From the outset it is clear that this is a well organised, comprehensive course. Everything is paperless and so a functional laptop or tablet is essential. At first the multitude of web portals/video apps/document readers seems overwhelming, but in fact this makes things much easier. Feedback for each session is a simple button away and we have been encouraged to do so to improve the course as we go along.

The expertise of the lecturers is evident: the lectures are interesting, detailed, and inspiring. My list of destinations to visit and work, and advice on how to do this increases daily.

Highlights of the first week were actually in the laboratory – finding Ascaris eggs in faecal samples, and looking at my first malaria protozoa in a red cell!

The weekend has come with an indulgent night out, with street food at Camp and Furnace and dancing in Aloha. I had so much fun that I couldn’t manage to fix my bike in time for a trip to the beach the next day! I often find the best way to explore your local area is by running and a sunny run along the Mersey was a great way to clear my head on a Sunday morning.

Bring on week two!