When Matthew Kneale enrolled on a degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Salford, he had no idea what the future held. He had a natural talent for science, leaving college with A-Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Physics, but he was leaving his career options well and truly open.
It was only after taking a placement year at Wythenshawe Hospital that Matthew set his sights on becoming a doctor. Three years on, he’s just started reading medicine at Warwick University and his future is looking very bright indeed.
"I didn’t even necessarily want to go to uni at first", says Matthew. "I ended up going to Salford through clearing; I found various courses that I thought could be interesting, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I chose Salford because I felt like I would be happy there, which I was."
Before he entered the third year of his course, Matthew decided to undertake a placement year and secured a position at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. "I decided to do a placement year because the lecturers at Salford made it very clear it would improve our career prospects", he explains. "It’s particularly important if you’re doing a lab-based degree; you need to go out there and find out how it all comes together."
"I was working as a trainee clinical scientist in the mycology lab, but I also had the chance to work with the doctors there and do some shadowing. That’s when I first became interested in pursuing medicine as a career."
"I started applying for places at medical school when I got back to Salford for my final year but I wasn’t successful, so I spent a couple of years doing voluntary work. I volunteered at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, and went to Uganda to work with patients in their own communities, reporting previous test results and doing symptoms checks. It all linked in very well with the lab work I’d already done, and the medical work I wanted to do."
When Matthew returned to the UK, he secured a fixed-term two-year post at Wythenshawe Hospital and, with his short-term future secure, set about re-applying for medical school.
"I loved the work I was doing in the lab, which was mainly epidemiology and global health, and collecting data from different countries on the cost and availability of drugs", he says. "But I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life there."
Undaunted by the thought of a further five years of study, Matthew was delighted when his second application to medical school was accepted.
"You have to be very determined, it's a very competitive area", he says. "The odds of getting past the first stage are something like ten to one, and then you’ve got a one in three chance of getting through the interview and getting a place. I was determined, though, and I was committed to get there even if I did take a rather unconventional route. I’ll be five years older than those who chose straight medicine when I qualify, and I’ll accrue more tuition fees, but it’s worth it."