Advice for funding an additional study or experience as a medic

Background:

Hi all, my name is Ivan Beckley. I recently finished my 3rd year at Medical school. Then decided I wanted the opportunity to study Data Science to complement my medical degree. Why? Because healthcare like every other industry is changing and technology is undoubtedly at the heart of much of this change. The digital and physical worlds are becoming one and the individuals that understand how to enable this across industries are rare yet important. I love love all things tech but equally hope to qualify as a fantastic clinician. So I took the risk, applied to an MSc in Health Data Science and then began a journey of finding how best to fund my MSc. I couldn’t use my own personal funds or that of my family and so I created a strategy towards doing so. By the grace of God, I managed to get my MSc completely funded by DeepMind and in doing so learnt a lot for which I’d like to share with you here. Below our my top tips for you as a medic to potentially get funding for any additional training or study beyond your medical degree.

Tips

1. Be crystal clear about the value you will provide with your additional study or experience

It is really important you understand how the additional study or experience you hope to embark upon (different from medicine medicine, but hopefully related to) will complement your medical training or the medical field in general. Articulating the value of this is essential. Please don’t be generic or loose with this description. Tell me what you will be able to do with these additional skills as a doctor that other medics wouldn’t be able to do and yet will be hugely useful to the system or healthcare as a whole.

People invest with the hope of some sort of return. Do your know the value you hope to return to the healthcare system if people invest in your 'non-medicine' endeavour? Funding at the end of the day is a way of someone saying - ‘I think this thing you are doing is valuable to X…’ So how can you possibly gain funding without understanding the value you could provide with this additional skills or experience? So before you do anything else do this first! Clearly articulate your value add if given the funding to do the thing you hope to do.

2. Lean your additional pursuit into the future

This comes from a quote from Jeff Bezos about leaning into the future:

“What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you - what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind..”

This quote by William Gibson is also another that I think speaks the point I am trying to make here:

“The future is already here — it's just not evenly distributed”

As part of thinking about this additional study or experience you hope to get funded, how can you link this to what will be important for healthcare in the future. First you can start by thinking about where is the healthcare system heading, what ambition is currently being talked about but is yet to be fulfilled. This could be reducing obesity, this could be rethinking the way health policy is generated. Then think about how the skill or study you hope to gain links to that potential future. Then, do all you can to align your studies to this future. This might be focusing your dissertation on these topics, taking modules that might help you answer some of these questions, or just gaining experience that will leave you in a better place, compared to other medics similar to you, to deal with this potential future.

People are much more likely to fund something that could have potential value to a future world. This world is likely to require a combination of your new skills and medical training. I recognise that not every additional training, or non-medicine venture can be thought about in this way. All I am saying with this point is that if you can align your additional studies or experiences to skills that are scarce now yet will could become massively important then this is a sure fire way to increase your chances of being funded. Remember the future is already here…

Here are few areas that I believe can completely be aligned to the future of healthcare:

visual design, public policy, system management, data science, computer science, architecture, human computer interaction, user experience, service design, media production, marketing, public relations, health economics/financing, business development, accounting, medial law, intellectual property, behaviour change, epidemiology, public health, art and music as a form of therapy, , occupational health, medical education, leadership, science communication…

3. Find people and organisations that have incentives to support the value you hope to create with your additional study or experience

You have to align your interests in pursuing this non-medicine study or experience with people and organisations who understand or might be able to understand the value you could provide with this new skill or experience. You have to, have to, make as long a list as you can of all these individuals. Whether or not you have a direct connect is irrelevant just make the list.

The best way to start if you know no one is to speak to someone, a person, face to face and ask them if they know anyone who could help. Make sure this person has some level of contacts/network that is larger than your own. If so, start here. If not them, then someone else. If you ask enough people you will find someone who will know someone and you can go from there. This is a very small world we live, I promise you!! Kindly and appropriately tap into their network (if they are willing and supportive) and if you are determined enough you will find people on your list.

To amplify this process of connecting to people you have never met before, please please utilise resources and social medical platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Eventbrite and meetup.com. Go out and meet people if you can. You have to be proactive about this. Medics in general are terrible as a species when it comes to networking. But this is an essential life skill in my opinion especially if you want your additional skill or experience to be funded.

4. Think creatively about how you sell the value you hope to create

Think outside the box! Stand out. You’ve done it before because you got into Medicine. Now do it again but this time be more creative about it. Write a blog, do a video, create posters, write a personalised proposal, speak at conferences/events, get people talking about what you do and hope to do. Capture people’s attention and interest. This is very powerful way for people to see how genuine you are around your ambitions and ask for funding.

For me, I wrote a blog as part of my sponsorship campaign. This worked well to communicate all the ideas I had about combining my medial studies and data science in way that was digestible but also appealing. I also created a personal proposal for each company/organisation I reached out to. In it, I explained my journey. My background, secondary study, my experiences, what I had learnt, and the modules I hoped to study and why. From all this gave a sense that I had thought about how this MSc I hoped to get funding for fitted into my journey so far and my aspirations for the future.

5. Start early, hustle and just ask

Don’t leave this till late, please! Getting anything funded, even if a great idea is challenging. You have to convince someone or thing to part with money, for your direct and hopefully their indirect or better yet direct benefit. This is not easy. So give your self time for rejections and lots and lots and lots and lots of Nos. A no is ok. It just means keep trying. That’s it. That is all a no means! Nothing else nothing more!

Here then is where hustle becomes important. Hustle is one of my favourite concepts because it speaks to a mindset around being stubborn and determined but also aware and creative, all at the same time. You have to have an element of hustle through this journey, which sometimes means constantly reinventing your idea and approach until you find something that works.

Finally just ask. If you never ask, how will you ever receive. Like how? Think about it. That person you are speaking to has no reason to give you anything or offer you anything unless you ask. So for crying out loud, just ask!! Ask everyone you know for advice, help and critic. If you never ask, how will you EVER receive. I'll say it again, IF YOU NEVER ASK, HOW YOU WILL NEVER RECEIVE.

So that’s it. I hope this is helpful. As part of becoming this new medic, we all need to gain complementary skills that are often non-medicine but when complemented with our medical training creates new pools of value for the entire industry.

I hope this helps you over come a massive barrier, that is funding, so can venture out to acquire such skills and experiencs. Well on your way to becoming a new medic!

Ivan Beckley

Ivan Beckley

UCL Medical Student currently completing a UCL MSc in Health Data Science. Determined to build a positive future for healthcare.

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