In January 2016, Natasha Eghterafi will begin studying medicine at the University of Buckingham, and it will be the culmination of many years of hard work to achieve a long-held ambition.
Natasha graduated from the University of Salford with a degree in Human Biology and Infectious Diseases in 2013. She went on to complete a Masters by Research in medical healthcare studies working in the field of genetics and parasitology, fitting in medical placements in Tanzania and NHS hospitals in between. She explains how her unconventional journey into a career in medicine began with some inspirational teaching at the University of Salford.
"If it wasn’t for my tutors at Salford, I wouldn’t be where I am now", begins Natasha. "Professor Geoff Hide and Dr. Stephen Heath really pushed me academically, and I wouldn’t have gone on to do my Masters or apply for medical school without their support and the support of many others."
After growing up in Kuwait with her sisters, and with English and Iranian parents, Natasha came to Salford after spending a year with another university.
"I went to an all-Arabic school so I had to complete a foundation year in the UK before I could enroll on a degree course", she explains. "I chose Life Sciences, and although I enjoyed the content, my overall experience wasn’t great. Transitioning from an Arabic school to an English university was very difficult and when I went to my course leader with a problem, I was actually told not to bother carrying on because I wouldn’t do very well."
But Natasha proved the tutors wrong, and after successfully completing her foundation year, she gained a place on the Human Biology and Infections Diseases course here at Salford.
"It was a completely different experience from the outset", says Natasha. "Everyone was very approachable, and if I had a problem, I was encouraged by my lectures to visit them, All of my tutors were incredibly supportive. As well as guiding me through my own studies, I liaised with tutors in my capacity as a student rep, and any issues I presented to them were dealt with in the same manner, always with the students in mind."
Natasha thrived academically and socially in Salford’s welcoming and inclusive environment. She threw herself into social activities, helping to establish a table tennis club with her fellow students as well as being an integral member of the committee, joining the horse riding society and entering sporting competitions, as well as acting as the aforementioned students’ union rep.
"Salford is such a great place to study – it’s got such a friendly and welcoming environment", she says. "It was a bit of culture shock for me at first, with all my family still in Kuwait, but it was really easy to make friends so I was never alone. My friends and I spent a lot of time together, so having people around made being away from home a lot easier."
"In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I persuaded two of my sisters to study here: Nima has just completed a foundation course and is pursuing a BSc. in Pharmaceutical science and Nadia is in her final year of Business management!"
After successfully completing her degree at Salford, Natasha organised a placement for herself at an infectious diseases lab in Tanzania, also gaining experience in sexual health, obstetrics and gynecology whilst there. A year-long full-time Masters degree in Genetics and Parasitology followed, and Natasha is about to embark on the four and a half year course that will ultimately see her become a qualified doctor.
"It’s a long time to study, it’s very competitive, and I chose an unusual route", admits Natasha. "But I know 100% that this is what I want to do so I tell myself that if I do anything else I won’t be happy - there’s absolutely no alternative for me. I will make sure that I do it no matter how long it takes."
"I enjoy it, I like to be challenged, and if there’s something I don’t know, then I have to find out. I always want to know more, and that’s what I love about this field of work – it’s a never-ending journey of learning, but despite the challenges I may face as a doctor, it is the reward of helping someone, which makes all the hard work and the long years of studying worth it."
"I will never forget my time at Salford, because my tutors really pushed me to my limits and gave me the capacity to recognise my potential. The teaching quality is incredible, but there’s much more to it than that – it’s the belief in who you are and what you can be that makes all the difference, especially when you have the support, like I did at Salford."