Pole dancing and medical training – it’s all about balance for one new graduate

Shin Tan is graduating with a medical degree from the University of Plymouth – and is part of the first group of graduates who have completed their entire programme with the University’s Peninsula Medical School.

But on top of her academia, she is one step away from being a professional pole dancer, and explains how she has managed to perfect the balancing act.

“I’m so pleased I was successful in getting in to Plymouth. 

It’s been a tough course both emotionally and intellectually, but that does mean it’s also been very rewarding.”


The lecturers and clinical supervisors are all very approachable and receptive to our feedback, the entire year group knows each other and we look out for each other. It made the med school experience much more supportive and motivating, especially during the tough times.

In my spare time, I continued dancing leisurely until I did my first pole dance class in Plymouth and I was immediately addicted to this newfound dance style.

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I wanted to be a dancer since I was very little, it all started with my first ballet class when I was six. When I finished school at the age of 16, I moved to London to start full-time dance training with Rambert School of Ballet & Contemporary Dance. Two years into my training, I sustained a back injury, decided to take a year out for recovery, and spent a year working as a dance teacher/choreographer in Malaysia and Singapore. That was when I realised performing and teaching will never be enough motivation for me to carry on, and I wanted something more.

Shin, who was born in Malaysia and moved down to Plymouth from the New Forest, went back to do her A Levels after her year out and decided to apply for medical school.


I have tried to continue competing as much as I can, but it is difficult to find enough hours to train when I am competing against professionals that do this full time. I have learnt to train smart and be very efficient with my training time – high intensity interval training is my best friend because I can achieve so much in 45 minutes. I also rely heavily on mental imagery rehearsal before competition, this is when my friends spot me sitting on a bus with my headphones in and wander off in my own dancing world during the commute to placement at Derriford.

My most recent competition was Miss Pole Dance UK, where I was runner-up in instructor category and just two points away from qualifying for the professional category. I am now determined to get stronger and more flexible so that I can return to the same stage and fight for my spot in the professional league.

Shin won her first national title in Pole Theatre UK Amateur 2014, became the team captain for the University of Plymouth Student Union (UPSU) club in second year and completed her instructor training qualification that summer. 

Since then, she has been teaching regularly in local studios and offering workshops in Plymouth and abroad – with a highlight being runner-up in the instructor category of Miss Pole Dance UK 2018.

“I have enjoyed living in the South West so much that I decided to stay in the area – I have just moved to Cornwall to start working as a junior doctor in Royal Cornwall Hospital. I enjoyed living in a small coastal town in the New Forest, and now I get to live somewhere with equally breathtaking nature. It’s fantastic.”

Shin 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.


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