Jessica Walsh received the top prize for an outstanding performance in the University of London Gold Medal Viva competition.
Each year, every London-based medical school is invited to nominate a small number of newly graduated students to compete, from those who have obtained the highest number of merits and distinctions, and have passed every examination on the first attempt.
Learning of her success in the competition, Dr Walsh said, “When I received the email saying I had been awarded the Gold Medal, I couldn’t believe it! It was not expected at all – I never thought I would win!”
“I realised I wanted to study medicine in secondary school. Initially, I didn’t get into medical school, but this only furthered my motivation and I studied a Biomedical Science degree at another university before applying to Imperial for medicine. In preparation for my interview, I realised I had made the right decision – Imperial is a world-class institution that delivers high quality education, and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Imperial medical students have experienced plenty of success in the competition over the years.
In 1908, Alexander Fleming received the Medal whilst a student at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, which later merged with the College in 1997 - alongside Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School and the Royal Postgraduate Medical School - to form the current School of Medicine.
Dr Walsh added, “It is a great honour to have won the same medal that Sir Alexander Fleming won 110 years ago. His discoveries in science and medicine were profound, and still contribute to how we treat patients today.”
During the competition, candidates receive face-to-face questions from a panel of examiners, testing their knowledge in a variety of areas of medicine. The winner is decided based on the answers the candidates give to these questions.
Since the current School’s beginnings in 1997, Imperial students have taken the top prize seven times, including Dr Walsh’s 2018 win.
In 2017, Imperial medic Dr Anna Robinson was awarded the Betuel Prize for the runner-up in the competition, with Drs Anthony Dorr and Ashik Amlani receiving it in 2014 and 2015 respectively, giving Imperial students a clean sweep of the competition for those years.
Dr Walsh also spoke of the financial assistance offered by the Faculty, highlighting it as a key support to her studies.
“One of the great things about Imperial is the support offered to students. When I found it difficult to manage, I was supported by the Faculty of Medicine Dean’s Fund, which is aimed at assisting students in Years 5 and 6, and I don’t think I would have had the same success without it.”
Typically, the Gold Medal award is presented and recognised formally at the School of Medicine’s annual Teaching Excellence Awards in November.
This year, Dr Walsh had already begun the first year of her Foundation course, based in Manchester, so was unable to attend, but was warmly recognised by those present and Deputy Head of Undergraduate Medicine, Dr Jo Harris, spoke on her behalf.
Looking to the future and considering her career, Dr Walsh said, ‘At this point, the only distinction I’ve made is medicine over surgery. I enjoy respiratory medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology – I am fortunate to have two out of three of these during my foundation training, so we will see!”
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Faculty of Medicine Centre