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News > Alumnae > Old Queens Series: Martina Neunie

Old Queens Series: Martina Neunie

Editor of Queen's Today, Mrs Baker, interviews OQ Martina Neunie (2016) who is studying Medicine at Cardiff University. She shares her work with the Diversity Action Group and moving to rural Wales.
17 Dec 2021
Written by Afiyah Alim

What did you do after Queen’s?

I graduated in 2016 and went to Cardiff University and I love it. My dad did his Master’s there and I was ready to try something different. Cardiff was third in the league table for Medicine when I applied. I like being able to walk everywhere and going to restaurants and everything is close by. An OQ called Daisy Holmes is in her third year now as well as Francesca da Costa who has graduated. It was quite nice to have that contact – she lent me books, gave me all my crockery and more!

What has your Medical School experience been like so far?

I am in the final year of my medical degree, and it involves four ‘Foundation’ placements. The first placement I did was in Gastroenterology and now I’m doing General Practice. I’m living alone in rural Wales in the Brecon Beacons and it has been so nice - I’ve been on lovely walks. Everyone in the town is so friendly and welcoming and I’ve made friends with the doctors and the nurses. I want to go to Kenya to do an elective abroad – I am first medic in my family and this has been an amazing experience.

What made you decide to be a doctor?

I don’t know when the point was that I decided, but I did charity work at Queen’s. We raised £5,000 for Medicins sans Frontières through the Christmas Fair in my last year. I did a medical week with some lectures about a number of different things – it’s one of my favourite memories – the Deputy Head at the time said: “I just don’t want any gore on these slide shows as we have Class 3’s.” The day before a hospital in Afghanistan had been bombed by the USA and I showed the footage. I had so many people coming up to me afterwards including teachers such as Mrs Penny saying that was amazing thank you for showing this and telling the pupils what’s actually going on in the world. I took part in the Greek Chorus every year with no interest in Greek really but wanting to do something for Mrs Harrison and she was so lovely that I just wanted to make her happy. I loved Maths at school and I was still getting help from Mr Donovan in my second year at University when I got stuck on calculations! I was better at Humanities than the Sciences but the ethical and communicative elements of medicine are the most important. I have been astonished to notice fellow students skipping our Sociology lectures. Mrs Fabers-Gumpert taught me RS and this subject I feel is vital foundation. I think Medicine more than just our knowledge base – we need the skills to take to patients and understanding.

What is your idea of community?

When I arrived in Bangor, as a Londoner, there was this of sense of “Oh my gosh - she’s come from the big city”, but I love it, there is a sense of community. There’s lots of smiling and saying good morning to strangers; showing gratitude by buying you cakes. I went to the Royal College of General Practioners’ conference in Liverpool and the best part of it was that there were all these GPs from Wales and they said: “You’ve made this poster, so we’re going to take you out because you’re representing Wales for us.” They took us out for dinner and drinks to thank us for representing their part of the world. (Martina received a Bursary from the RCGP South East Wales Faculty to enable her to attend the conference).

Could you tell me about the Diversity Action Group?

This is an initiative at Queen’s and currently we are discussing how we can diversify the curriculum. I cried after the last meeting with my housemates because I was so happy and jealous of how included so many students are going to feel. My niece is in II Juniors and seeing the way that she’s part of the group and she can just hold her own when talking about these types of issues. She feels comfortable in herself and able to voice her opinions. While I was at Queen’s we did not have conversations directly about race and while that was great in some ways as I was the only fully black person in the school at the time, it was good not to be picked out in an unhelpful way. However, differences did need to be addressed in a certain way. In my last year I did a Black History Month talk and I remember thinking to myself, “How has that happened that I’m only the black person in the room – including the teachers?”. In my GCSE History class we were about to study slavery and Mr Willows took me out of the class to let me know about the contents of the lesson prior to teaching it and allow me to prepare myself.

This is important for students from Queen’s as they are going to interact with people of colour. When you only see people over colour in low paid roles such as cleaners and bus drivers, that has a subconscious effect. Students need to see that people of colour are talented and artistic. Teaching about these issues from a young age makes a difference.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Just realising you need to figure out what’s right for you and be open to other options is valuable and the path doesn’t have to be linear. I wish someone had said that to me.

What kind of speciality would you like to go into?

I’ve really enjoyed General Practice and I like the idea of a work-life balance and having time to do other things and also I love the idea of being an advocate for people and knowing them their whole lives and when they go into hospital and a consultant sends them out you’re the one who deals with the pieces for them. I think that’s really special. I also like O&G because I enjoy women’s health and it’s so important and so overlooked - it’s also dominated by men which I find so weird. I want to be in a speciality where I can be an advocate for patients, like paeds or geriatrics.

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