"I doubted I would get in to medical school, but a taster week gave me confidence"

Medical student Chris Gummow on his elective at Rarotonga Hospital in the Cook Islands

Plymouth-born Chris Gummow had wanted to be a doctor from age five, but – with no medical professional in his family, and no pathway to speak of – was concerned he would never get in.

But after undertaking a week-long widening participation work experience programme at Peninsula Medical School (then Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, PCMD) at the University of Plymouth, Chris became confident that he could achieve his dream.

He graduates as part of the first cohort to complete their entire BMBS Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery with the University of Plymouth Peninsula Medical School.

Throughout his degree, Chris went on to run the medical school’s Widening Participation programme, and hopes to inspire the next generation of doctors.

“ 

I have lived in Plymouth for my entire life. I first became interested in studying medicine when I was around five years-old as I was in awe of the medical professionals who looked after me when I was unwell as a child. Doctors were my role models and as I went through school, I worked with this goal in mind.

My passion for studying medicine became even greater when I undertook a work experience placement at a local care home in Plymouth. I found the opportunity to look after and care for others a highly rewarding experience, and I realised how doing little things for people can make a big difference.

A big moment for me came during sixth form at Devonport High School for Boys, when I spent a week at Peninsula Medical School (then PCMD) with current medical students where I gained a greater insight into what studying medicine entails.


“I was nervous but it was life-changing as it gave me the confidence to believe that I could be successful in applying for a medical degree. Coming from an entirely non-medical background with no contacts in that sphere, until that point, I had always doubted whether I would be able to get into medical school.”

When he applied, Chris was offered places at two universities – one of them, Plymouth.

I decided to stay here for a number of reasons. Firstly, I know and love the city. Having grown up and attended school here, I love being by the coast and all the great places you can visit, plus I wanted to study here to be close to my family and partner. 

I think it is a unique place to live and I couldn’t imagine studying medicine anywhere else.

The course at Plymouth was also more attractive to me, with a greater focus on small-group and self-directed learning, rather than the traditional lecture-heavy courses offered elsewhere. Moreover, the Plymouth course emphasises the need for patient-contact early in the course, and from my very first year, I was able to see medicine in practice in the clinical setting, which helped to contextualise learning.

Seven years on from my work experience week with medical students, I have recently finished my fifth year of running that same programme that I attended as a sixth form student. The week is a Widening Participation scheme that invites secondary school students from around the South West (although some come from all over the UK!) in years 10–12 to spend a week with medical students.

After graduating, I will begin my foundation training (F1/F2) at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro. I will undertake rotations in the Medical Assessment Unit, Paediatrics and General Surgery in my first year, and General Practice, Cardiology and Genito-urinary Medicine in my second year. 

This transition marks a big change in my circumstances, as I will be moving out of my family home, where I have lived with my very supportive parents for the last 23 years, to move down to Cornwall. I chose to pursue this path as I will be able to live with my partner in Truro, and I desired a change in scenery as I move from being a student to being a doctor. The hospital I will be working in has a great sense of community and I am looking forward to this next chapter. In the long run, I hope to pursue a career in General Practice, and I aspire to remain in Devon and Cornwall working as a GP. It’s a beautiful part of the world – why would I want to be anywhere else?

Chris is part of the first group of graduates who have completed their entire BMBS Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery with the University of Plymouth Peninsula Medical School. The school was established in 2012, following the decision of the two founding members of Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD), the Universities of Plymouth and University of Exeter, to separate and establish independent medical schools.

Widening Access to Medical and Dental School (WAMS and WADS)

You shouldn’t feel that you can’t pursue your ambition to be a doctor or dentist because of your family or school circumstances. 

Widening Participation inspiring and encouraging school students to apply to medical and dental school.

Find out more about WAMS and WADS

Dentistry facilities at the medicine and dentistry open days

Medicine and dentistry open days

Looking for medicine and dentistry information? The Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry host its own open days.

There is limited information at the main University open day for medicine and dentistry courses, so have a look at the school for more details.

More on our medicine and dentistry open days