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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 September 2005, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
'I swapped dancing for medicine'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Kirsty Lloyd
Kirsty danced in London's top venues
When patients are stitched up by trainee doctor Kirsty Lloyd they can be reassured that she is highly qualified - with an A-level in needlework.

That is not the only unusual qualification - while her contemporaries were poring over their medical text books Kirsty was learning the art of dance.

A contemporary performer, Kirsty went to dance school from the age of 11.

"I was completely passionate about dance, you could not do the 15 years training I did unless you are.

Career

"You have to spend a huge amount of time practising, even when you are a professional. It is a sacrifice for your art, but I loved my dancing."

Kirsty has worked both as a performer, dancing at a number of top London venues including the Place Theatre, the Natural History Museum and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and as an administrator in the business.

But a back injury in her late twenties forced her to reconsider her career options.
I must admit though the needlework will come in very useful
Kirsty Lloyd

So impressed had she been by the care she was given by medics, Kirsty decided to retrain as a doctor.

She is now four years into her five-year course and has just been appointed chair of the British Medical Association's (BMA) Medical Students Committee.

She admits hers was an unusual change of career, particularly because of her A-level choices.

"I had A-levels in craftwork (needlework); the history of art and biology. I must admit though the needlework will come in very useful", she said.

"But when I started thinking about my studies I remembered that I had been really into biology."

She said her first hurdle had been learning about medicine as a career choice.

"I did not know anybody who had been to medical school and I did not know what they had to go through to get there. I would never have thought about medicine. It never came onto my radar."

Researching her realistic options led Kirsty to an access course where she studied physics, chemistry, maths and medical geography (this looks at the geographic distribution of disease and provision of health services).

"I had never done any physics or chemistry before so I was very new to this. But I loved it. The physics particularly astonished me and I wished that I had studied it as a dancer, it would have been useful."

Students

She said taking the 'Access to medicine course' had brought her into contact with other like-minded students.

"There was one other there who had been an opera singer, and that made me feel that I was not a complete freak.

"There were some people on the courses who had been nurses and health workers but there was one who had been a marine and had left school without any qualifications, as well as a journalist and IT specialist."

Advised to contact the medical schools before applying, Kirsty found that some were not prepared to consider her qualification.

I cried when I got my first offer of a place
Kirsty Lloyd

She applied to four that would, and was only offered places conditional on getting distinctions, which she did in every subject.

"I cried when I got my first offer of a place and then at the end of the year I got my results and I knew that I was off to Leicester."

At the end of her third year of training she started to relax, becoming more confident that she was going to complete her training and finally become a doctor.

"There is a big exam at the end of the third year and that is a landmark because that is when you get into clinical practice.

"Now I feel that I am really going to do this and I really love it. I love being at university and I love my fellow students."

Politics

It is her passion for medicine that has drawn her into medical politics - but her previous life also helped here too.

At dance college she had been involved in the National Union of Students (NUS).

When she joined medicine she joined the BMA and became the representative for Leicester, a post she held for two years.

Last year she became an executive student representative and this month was appointed to the top post.

She knows she will have her work cut out for her with issues such as student debt (Kirsty herself expects to graduate with debts of 51,000), top-up fees and encouraging students to the profession from outside the middle-class.

"Medical debt is spiralling. The average fifth year medical student owes nearly 20,000, and the high cost of studying for a medical degree is one of the reasons so few medical students come from working class backgrounds.

"The introduction of top-up fees next year is likely to make this worse.

"Top-up fees could mean debts as high as 64,000 for medical students, and there's a real risk that we're creating financial barriers that will prevent some very able students from becoming doctors."

This year Kirsty is doing her research work specialising in cancer, but says she will have to commit one or two days a week to her BMA work.

"I am trying to make rules for myself though, such as switching off my phone after 10pm, and trying to limit myself to just two meetings a week."

But despite all the hard-work and financial stress, Kirsty says she has not regretted her career change.

She says she has not yet decided which branch of medicine to follow, but said her former dance colleagues had their own ideas.

"They all want me to be their GP," she said.


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