The cat is out of the bag… and in the age of social media, it was nice to keep it in there for a bit to allow myself time to enjoy the process and to decide how much I wanted to share. It all came down to the fact that nontraditional medical school applicants are less common in Lithuania than UK or US. In fact, there was none I could find.

People who heard about my situation had questions. The below answers lingered close to the line of the information I would usually keep to myself. However, I strongly believe that the medical profession can benefit from nontraditional applicants and more transparency. The world we live in is interconnected – it is only fair that an interdisciplinary approach will be needed to solve the challenges modern society face. Hopefully, this information will inspire someone else to consider how their skills could benefit another field.

  1. What is your background?
  2. Are you not tired of studying / why continue studying?
  3. Why Medicine?
  4. How did you get into medical school?
  5. Do you regret studying law?
  6. Why university in Lithuania?
  7. Will you quit work and law?
  8. Which medical speciality will you choose?
  9. I don’t think you should do it and similar remarks

Feel free to share this post with anyone who might find it useful. If you have a question that is not answered here, simply get in touch and I will be happy to talk through it.

More updates on my medical journey will be shared on Instagram @medgmb

What is your background?

I worked and studied in the United Kingdom for seven years:

University: CertHE in Drama Studies, LLB (Hons) Law and LLM Comparative and International Dispute Resolution.

Modules taken for LLB: Constitutional and Administrative Law, Law of Contract, Criminal Law, English and European Legal Contexts, Law Of Tort, Land Law, Private Law of Consumer Protection, Business Entities, The Lawyer in the Marketplace (Entrepreneurship), Intellectual Property Law, International Law, Contemporary Issues in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory, Equity and Trusts.

Modules taken for LLM: Animal Law, Media and Culture, Commercial Conflict of Laws, Cultural Diversity and Law, Strategic Decision Making for Lawyers, Art Disputes and their Resolutions, Negotiation Theory and Practice, Transnational Law and Governance in Practice, Alternative Dispute Resolution: Selected Issues.

Modules audited for LLM: Art and Cultural Values, International Commercial Arbitration, AI, Robotics and the Law, Derivatives in a Legal Context.

Extra-curriculum activities in Lithuania: e-publishing and web design certificate, freelance photographer, music school graduate, attended journalist club, vet club, volunteered at the animal shelter.

Extra-curriculum activities in the UK: 2019/21 Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Chartered Insurance Institute, and The UK Centre for Animal Law, 2017/18 President of the De Montfort University Street Law Society, 2017/18 London Philharmonia Orchestra Student Ambassador.

Work: over eight years of experience working with customers, complaints resolution, and projects. For a full list head over to LinkedIn.

Are you not tired of studying / why continue studying?

Studying is my ‘find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. It has made me happy for as long as I can remember but it was not always straightforward.

I no longer remember much of my time at kindergarten but I do remember days when my grandfather, who worked at the university, would take me to his work. Buildings, lecture rooms, labs, students, and books fascinated me. I could not wait to start school and it is truly funny to remember how relatable Hermione’s famous quote ‘we could all have been killed – or worse, expelled’ felt.

Can people remember their time in primary school? The memories I have are filled with laughter – there’s not a single photo from that time where I’m not smiling. I can only remember one occasion when I forgot to do my homework. The task was to create a story about a table in the house and tell it to the class. I could have said I forgot and nothing would have happened but instead, I created a story on the spot not wanting to stain my ‘reputation’. I was yet to learn what healthy balance was.

In secondary school, it was considered ‘uncool’ to like studying and I remember failing tests on purpose to avoid bullying. Eventually, it got to the point where it was easier to take some science subjects out of my curriculum than to catch up. It did not help that instead of motivating, teachers would simply say that some people were built to understand either arts or science. On top of that, I remember being sad and angry all the time. Talk about red flags and toxic culture… darkest days of my life but a good character-building exercise. High school was neither good nor bad.

University was the complete opposite. I enjoyed both ups and downs of the academic journey, worked through my insecurities, learned what study methods worked for me, and how rest was as important as the actual studying. Even better, I could imagine doing research forever and never getting bored of discovering new things. 

During my LLM I had some conversations about PhD options with my lecturers, one of whom had a science degree. Later, I met a few other lawyers who had a science degree and their experience left me in awe of how many new perspectives such a combined approach unlocked – anything but tiring!

Why Medicine?

If you had asked five-year-old Gabriele Marija ‘Who do you want to be when you grow up?’, the answer was always ‘An actress, a doctor, and a lawyer’. There were some variations, with vet and judge included. In a newly independent post-soviet country, my answer was often met with a ‘helpful’ clarification that people can only choose one. Luckily, a new generation is much more open-minded!

In school, chemistry, biology, history, and languages were my favourite subjects. As briefly covered in the previous answer, the school was a rocky road and growing up I often jumped between what was expected from each profession. Acting seemed like an ideal solution, giving an option to pretend to be a lawyer and a doctor. Theatre was my safe space. Yet it left the need to actually understand the law and treat patients ‘unscratched’.

Throughout my legal studies, I gravitated toward subjects that had an element of medicine. For example, I would read Medical Law textbooks even though it was not part of my course. The best days of my LLM were spent in a medical library that was based in a hospital. I attended every healthcare-related talk I could find, networked with doctors turned lawyers, and devoured books about health, even shared accommodation with medical students.

Similar patterns could be noticed at work. Working for an insurance company, I had my mind set on being promoted to the department that handled injury claims and had to learn anatomy. After moving to London, I joined a company providing medical services.

The night shifts were miserable yet I would go to work excited about learning new diseases and hearing doctors communicate. Every time there was a medical emergency I would think not ‘please never put me in this position again’ but ‘I want to know how to help next time this happens’.

On a more personal level, it pains me to see the difference in medical care (and general approach to health) around the world – even between the European Union countries. For example, Lithuania has one of the highest preventable mortality rates in the EU. Almost every member of my family who had to spend time in hospital encountered a medical complication or poor experience. There is a limit to the number of times you can listen to your grandmother or elderly people in public places complaining that it is easier to die than to receive medical care in Lithuania.

This is not to say that it’s the doctor’s or the administration’s fault, or that the system is broken. Of course, there are great doctors and hospitals just not everyone gets to see them. The overall healthcare system has improved slightly in recent years but it’s far from enough – and it is difficult to draw conclusions or theorise as to why without access to the impartial data.

Initially, I planned to find a way to improve the situation through the law, however, the more I learned the clearer it became that effective changes do not come from legislations alone. There needs to be a shift on the ‘ground’. In addition to learning about treatments, I intend to find out what shift is needed, show how effortless patient experience pays off and take it from there.

How did you get into medical school?

In a way, it is amusing that with all of the above, I never allowed myself to consider studying Medicine (although I did check paramedics’ and battlefield surgery training programs every time Russia acted like Russia). Having been accepted to a one-year work programme, I have planned on spending this time deciding on a PhD topic but even Medical Law didn’t feel quite right. Until an opportunity to work on an animal rights project provided much-needed clarity on the next steps in my career.

Back in September 2021, I was researching veterinary course information for work. It made me remember how I wanted to be a vet. Out of interest, I begin looking at whether it would be possible for me to apply. One of the prerequisites was a biology exam. I did not take chemistry or biology maturity examinations or lessons in the last two years of high school. In fact, at the time of taking my maturity examinations I already had an offer from a UK university and only needed to pass. My exam results were less than average and not enough to even be considered for the course.

On the bright side, my high school grades were strong so all I needed was to retake maturity exams. Fresh out of university, I missed studying and decided to retake exams as a fun challenge for myself. By November, I had documents handed in, exams fee paid, a bunch of books to study from purchased and waiting on my desk.

I joined an online studying platform called Memby/Digiklase. The lessons were so interesting, I would tune in and listen to the recordings for a few hours after work and… the material made sense. Even biology, which as you now know I struggled so much with at school that it was easier to get rid of the subject altogether. Now I loved it. As months passed by, I allowed myself to entertain the idea that I could not only pass the exams but take a step further and get grades good enough to get into Medicine.

For the sake of transparency – I did consider applying to Nursing or Public Health but didn’t as I would catch myself googling if nurses can suture wounds or if Public Health graduates can consult patients. The relief and content I felt after receiving exam results that gave me a fighting chance for Medicine reassured me that there was no subject I wanted to study more. The rest is history.

Do you regret studying law?

Absolutely not. At university, we had a lot of events and meetings to discuss alternative career choices. This has allowed me to realise fairly early on in my studies that my reason for studying wasn’t to become a solicitor or a barrister. The reason was the strong foundation law degree provided for my goal to work in the public sector. After a year in the public sector, I can confidently say that legal studies were the right choice and already paid off on more than one occasion.

Another thing I will always appreciate was the ability to choose and study several different modules. For example, jurisprudence (the theory or philosophy of law) was one of my absolute favourites. We looked not at what the law is but why it is what it is. When it works and when it no longer reflects the needs of the community. Until then I assumed that law is the law and what’s on paper is always right. Afterwards, I begin thinking much more critically. You cannot put a price tag on that.

Why university in Lithuania?

This one’s a bit more complicated and there are a few reasons. Firstly, all Lithuanians can apply once for a government-funded place at college or university provided they have the highest grades. My law degree was completed in the UK and, therefore, not funded by Lithuania.

According to my research, this makes Lithuania the only country in the world where it makes sense economically to study Medicine. Plus there is always an option to do a study year or work experience abroad. On a side note, my exam results were a few points short of qualifying for a government-funded spot. Yes, this means more exams next year!

Secondly, I did my LLM at one of the Russell Group universities and the quality of education was impeccable. Lithuanian universities barely make it on the World University Ranking list. I’d love to better understand why and help to change that. Even if it’s something small, like sharing information about study resources available in other countries with my coursemates.

Thirdly, there have been a lot of reports in recent years about medical school student struggles and mobbing within the medical community. That interests me as someone with a background in alternative dispute and conflict resolutions. It’s truly bizarre this is happening within the community tasked to look after the health of others. You do not need to search far to find research concluding that hospitals with a good teamwork culture have better patient outcome rates.

Last but not least is the same reason why I made a decision to study at the university in my hometown and not the university in the capital city. It took me the longest time to decide as there is a large gap between the socioeconomic statuses of the Lithuanian cities and villages. The bottom line was that to me, it’s important to understand the community I would provide medical services to and my hometown is the golden mean for that.

Will you quit work and law?

No. I worked throughout all of my previous studies and being able to support myself is liberating. Work has always provided a practical perspective for my academic research and vice versa. It is a perfect way to accelerate both personal and professional development.

I see Medicine not as a career change but as an add-on to my law degree. It remains to be decided in what capacity I will continue to work as university timetables in Lithuania are much more difficult to accommodate than in the UK. It is not a bad thing but requires a different approach. That is all I will say on the subject for now but there are some plans (law included) in the pipeline which I will share on my LinkedIn when possible.

In terms of extra-curriculum activities, I have created an Instagram account @medgmb. Following #studygrams has helped me to stay motivated and discover useful material when completing my LLB and LLM. Throughout the last year, accounts of pre-med and medical students provided a valuable insight into the profession and available opportunities. Now it’s time to pay back the favour and produce some useful information in Lithuanian – and learn English terminology!

Which medical speciality will you choose?

The short answer is emergency medicine interests me the most.

The longer answer is that it seems premature to answer questions of this kind before even starting my course. A lot can happen in six years – graduation is not a given. What I can say is that I am excited for the challenges ahead and to watch how my way of thinking will develop.

I don’t think you should do it and similar remarks

It is great being able to ask for advice from family, friends, and close colleagues. This section is about those who feels entitled to make unsolicited remarks about other people’s life decisions. It rarely occurred in the UK but has happened way too often in Lithuania. We should draw more attention to how much harm tolerating such behaviour can cause. The below paragraph is for everyone who recognises themselves in these words.

When I was in high school (about 16 years old) I had my mind set on applying to a law school. One day a lawyer came in to give a talk and told us that we should not apply unless we had lawyers in the family, the studies were incredibly hard, nobody can truly understand the law, and you had to have the very highest marks to apply.

The women who said this was a lawyer – surely she knew what she was talking about? It made me question my capabilities and completely drained any motivation from an already struggling teenager. Mental health was not a thing back then and the general approach at school was ‘just suck it up’. Naturally, my grades deteriorated and I gave up on pursuing a law degree.

Looking back, I am very grateful for how the situation turned out. It gave me a reason to push myself to study drama abroad and find my voice, which then allowed me to pursue law. Having spent the last year working in a civil law system, I highly doubt I would feel as excited about the law and public sector if my training would not be based on the common law approach.

Not everyone gets so lucky. If you are someone who oversteps the boundaries – please don’t or learn to offer your opinion politely and objectively. For everyone else – let this be a reminder that nobody knows what you are capable of better than yourself. Let’s go and build those bridges towards our dreams!

Dear Gabriele Marija,

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