I began my eight weeks a total novice with only a small amount of previous writing and editing experience. Never did I imagine I would leave as all of the above.
The Clegg scholarship is an eight week work experience placement at the BMJ offices in London and the only scholarship of its kind. Whilst academic writing and research aspirations are forefront in the minds of many medical students, few are taught the components of a good article or ever exposed to the post submission process and the journey to publication. The Clegg scholarship bridges this gap, offering medical students a unique insight into the world of medical publishing.
My eight weeks at the BMJ office were an education. Critical appraisal, research methodology, and nuances in study design finally made a lot more sense as I watched original research articles pulled apart in manuscript meetings. The daily team huddle meant suddenly I was in the know about breaking news, and the weekly planning meeting was always a hotbed of topical discussion as ideas for upcoming articles were discussed before being discarded or embraced.
The placement allows scholars to pursue projects with all areas of the journal whether it is news, features, careers, blogs, doc2doc (the BMJ online clinical community), podcasts, editing, or technical production. I worked closely with Student BMJ, and with the guidance of Neil Chanchlani, the student editor, navigated the peer review system; learning how to evaluate potential articles, make decisions and edit manuscripts. I also learnt how to successfully pitch an article for a medical student audience, and wrote numerous features, reviews, and blogs during my time there. Indulging my passion for writing was a real treat, and the BMJ office was a stimulating and dynamic environment, overflowing with ideas, terrific people, and interesting conversation.
Writing and editing aside, I did things I never expected to. From attending high profile press events and being brave enough to venture a question during a press conference, to interviewing the BMJ group awards Junior Doctor of the Year, and Dr Fatima Haji, a Bahraini doctor jailed for treating patients fighting to stay out of prison. I also tried my hand at marketing, writing catchy copy for fliers and promoting doc2doc to medical freshers. Everyday at the BMJ brought a myriad of new experiences and challenges. One morning I was a blogger discussing the latest twist in the application process for foundation programme jobs, and the next I was a reporter, speaking to anti abortion campaigners outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic in Bedford Square.
Overall, working at the BMJ has had an enormous impact on me. After eight weeks, evaluating papers for publication has becoming second nature and the eccentricities of BMJ style are firmly ingrained. Being a Clegg is an invaluable opportunity to experience medical journalism at the highest level, and to be a part of one of the most influential medical voices in the world. My best piece of advice to future Clegg scholars is to get involved as much as you can as you learn “on the job” rather than through formal teaching. Also keep a stack of napkins by your desk as there is always cake in the office!
For further details about the Clegg scholarship including how to apply, please click here.
Maham Khan is a final year medical student, Imperial College London.