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Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health Blog



The PCPH iBSc in Primary Health Care: 1997-present

By Nathan Davies, on 22 June 2017

In this post Surinder Singh, Course Director for the iBSc in Primary Health Care gives us na update with some great feedback from past and present students.

We have just just “graduated” the twentieth cohort of students undertaking the Department’s integrated BSc in Primary Health Care (iBSc).  After their first two years at UCL  all medical students  undertake an iBSC year  which allows them to pursue an individual subject, of their choice, in considerable depth, with a strong emphasis on undertaking an extended research study.  This is a fundamental element of the medical school’s  mission to produce  “scientifically-literate” clinicians. (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/medicalschool/staff-students/course-information/year-3).

Ever since 1997 one of the iBSc options at UCL has been the iBSc in Primary Health Care.  This was the first primary care iBSc in the UK and each year we recruit a small but dynamic cohort of usually 10-14 students.

Over the last twenty years we have produced almost two hundred graduates, most of whom are now practising clinicians throughout the UK and abroad. The original Course Director was Melvyn Jones who subsequently handed over to current lead Surinder Singh.

The iBSc consists of six modules encompassing individual patient care, the consultation in primary care as well as health of the population and critical appraisal – now jointly taught with the iBSc in Paediatrics. The single largest module is Research* – led by Richard Meakin. This is a module which students find sometimes challenging, usually fascinating and always rewarding.   It is also the component where we are particularly keen to involve PCPH researchers and research students as project supervisors.  So please contact Surinder or Richard if you would like to get involved or have a small project in which you think a bright and well-motivated student could contribute in return for your supervision.

A short video about the iBSc and a list of all projects and abstracts/scientific papers are on the iBSc website.

Two recent graduates have kindly sent us  the following comments about their experiences of the iBSc in Primary Health Care for this blog:

Student Rajit  Randhawa writes:

“As far as I am aware primary healthcare is only amongst a few iBScs to offer patient contact – one day a week throughout the year.  Not only does this help tie in the theoretical learning about consultation models and patient-belief systems, it most definitely prepares us for the 4th year clinics and in my opinion, is a truer placement than the 5th year GP placement because we actually see continuity of care over a prolonged period.  In my time at my medical practice I clerked and examined many patients, performed basic procedures such as flu jabs, and even had the opportunity to write up an inquest into a patient’s death in addition to doing more routine tasks such as home and hospital visits”

 And of the teaching during the year:

“I cannot think of a single session where I thought the teaching was overbearing or too complex. Tutorials can be up to three hours but it’s not as bad as that since the format lends itself to promoting healthy and productive discussion between different groups of students.  As someone who was often happy to sit silently I now appreciate being driven out of my comfort zone, and it has helped to develop my confidence speaking to larger groups”

Another graduate of the course, Joht Chanda– now a junior doctor wrote:

 “I am currently finishing my Foundation Year 1 in the West Midlands. During medical school at UCL I was fortunate to get onto the iBSc in primary care and population health after my pre-clinical years.  I wasn’t sure what to expect before starting the course, however the lessons I went onto learn, were extremely positive in shaping where my career is currently going.

 The iBSc was the first opportunity I ever had to try taking part in research. Academia was not something I had ever considered before, as in my head I thought it usually consisted of lab work and being told what to do (two things I can’t stand!).

 However, in comparison to the other courses available, this iBSc was one of few to give you an opportunity to run a research project from start to finish, even applying for our own ethics (I can say happily now, but not so much back then!).  Although seemingly daunting at the time, the task of designing my own project was possibly one of the most useful I was able to complete during medical school.  It meant that in the proceeding clinical years, I had a solid grounding in research methods and was able to start taking on work myself that others in my year group wouldn’t have the knowledge of where to start.  

 Being self-sufficient meant I was able to strengthen my application for foundation years without having to rely on others for opportunities.  Instead this self-sufficiency taught in the iBSc meant I was the person responsible for creating the opportunities. The iBSc supervisory team were extremely supportive and even helped me publish my project and present it at conferences; these were great stepping stones for the future as most career paths usually prefer some level of academic engagement.

 I cannot explain quite how useful doing the course was for me and how thankful I am to have got on it, thinking back”.

Joht wrote a paper with Richard Meakin for BMJ Open and Rajit has produced a poster for a conference in 2017.



We are currently recruiting projects supervisors for the new cohort of eleven  iBSc students starting in September 2017.  If you are a PhD student/post doc and would like to get involved  please do contact  Surinder Singh or Richard Meakin

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