A Journey to Medicine - Qualifying Abroad

As part of our plans to expand this year, we have decided to share the stories of many Melanin Medics (both doctors and medical students). We believe that it is very important to show that our journeys to Medicine may differ greatly but ultimately the destination remains the same. Through out the year we will be interviewing various Melanin Medics at different stages in their training/ careers, giving them the opportunity to share their personal stories of the steps they took to excel in their careers and get to where they are today.

We had the privilege of being able to interview not one but two doctors. Dr Dearie Okwu and Dr Sarah Sonde, who have recently graduated with honors from Medical University Pleven in Bulgaria, shared their stories and personal experiences of their time in medical school with us.



MM: I AM SURE YOU BOTH MUST HAVE ANSWERED THIS QUESTION A FEW TIMES, BUT WHY DID YOU WANT TO STUDY MEDICINE?

DO:  I felt like (and still feel like) it’s one of the only professions where you have a chance to change lives intimately. Another factor was the fact that my parents wanted me to study medicine too.


SS: I have just always wanted to study medicine, but I suppose it just got closer to home with my mum being a nurse and watching her. When we were growing up she was the only nurse in the neighbourhood, and people who weren’t feeling well would always come to our house, and she would treat them. It was amazing because someone’s child would be sick and would come to her, and then the next day we would be playing together! So at that time it felt like she had super powers, and I wanted one too. We also cared for my granddad, so I think that also played a role.


MM: I KNOW THAT YOU BOTH COMPLETED DEGREES PRIOR TO STUDYING MEDICINE, SO COULD YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO STUDYING MEDICINE IN BULGARIA?

SS: I was interested in medicine as a young person as we mentioned before, so right off the bat I knew that I had to well in the sciences. I pursued them and did Physics, Chemistry and Biology as well as Maths for A Levels. But I didn’t get the grades that I needed, so decided to do Clinical Sciences at University. At that time, this was a course that had the option of transferring to Medicine after the first year; which I tried to do but wasn’t able to either, so I finished the degree. Even after this I still wanted to study medicine because the passion was still there. Many people told me to consider alternatives, and I did – I went to accounting and economics classes, but it just didn’t fit for me.


So I decided to apply for postgraduate medicine in the UK, and at this point I had the required grades as I re did my GCSEs, and I also did the required activities again like volunteering. So I felt like I had everything that I needed, however I still didn’t get into medicine. After all of this I started to consider studying abroad, so I applied to study in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Spain. Bulgaria seemed like it was the quickest and cheapest option and also it was part of the EU, so here I am!


DO: So for me, I was actually interested in Law at one point! But after my first year of secondary school, my teachers felt like I was excelling more in the sciences rather than in other art and commercial courses, so I changed my route and focused on science. After high school I applied to study medicine and received an offer to study at Igbinedion University, Okada in Nigeria. However after the first year I didn’t pass chemistry, so it was either I dropped out or changed my course. The course options I had were Pharmacy, Biochemistry or Microbiology. Due the fact that I don’t like chemistry, I decided to study Microbiology and did it for four years.