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David Li: what a difference a year makes

Winning the 2020 ACG Founders’ Scholarship was a life-changing event for Junheng (David) Li. Now thriving at the University of New South Wales, the ACG Sunderland alumnus has just completed the first year of his Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine (BMed/MD) in Sydney and provides a snapshot of the opportunities, experiences and highlights he enjoyed in 2021.
2020 ACG Founders’ Scholarship winner and ACG Sunderland alumnus, David Li

2021 has been a big year for alumnus and 2020 ACG Sunderland Dux, David Li. 

Winning the 2020 ACG Founders’ Scholarship (valued at up to $75,000) has enabled him to pursue his dream of studying medicine overseas, and he’s now firmly ensconced in a Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine (BMed/MD) at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

David shares some insights into his new life in Australia and offers a glimpse of what’s in store for ACG’s aspiring medical students…

“Starting the BMed/MD programme at UNSW has brought many joys and surprises throughout the year, but especially in the first few months. The sudden transition from high school in Auckland to university abroad has been a challenging but rewarding experience. I’ve learned that further trials may arise throughout my time here, but I remain confident that my time at ACG has given me the tools and ability to overcome them. 

“I’ve just completed my first, four-term year. The six-year degree is split into three phases, each lasting two years. In phase one, most of our time is spent studying the sciences and clinical sciences of medicine through lectures, practical laboratory classes and scenario group sessions. 

"Due to the effects of Covid-19, for a large part of the year, all lectures were run online. However, we were able to attend certain practical classes and small group sessions in person. In addition, clinical skills were taught fortnightly through on-campus classes, where we started to learn and practice taking histories and basic physical examination skills. We also began fortnightly hospital clinical skills sessions in Term 2, where we applied this learning in a hospital setting. 

“For phase one of my hospital clinical skills, I have been placed at South Western Sydney Clinical School at Liverpool Hospital. My first opportunity to have a quick look at doctors and nurses on the wards was an awe-inspiring moment. It was exciting to realise that there’s so much more to learn, more skills to develop and that there’s a long and exhilarating path ahead. 

“During the year, I signed up for many extracurricular societies and interest groups, including the Medical Society (MedSoc), the Medical Student Aid Project (MSAP) and the Dermatology Society (DermSoc). Through these, I’ve been able to reconnect with some of my hobbies, such as music and volunteer work. 

"For example, I volunteered at an MSAP birthing kit night where medical students helped pack birthing kits for mothers in third world countries. It was heart-warming to know that even medical students can help make a difference. Participating in ‘Clean Up Australia Day’ as part of a college accommodation event was another highlight.

“Moving to another country and being away from my parents has proven to be a great environment for personal development. Travelling around Sydney to correct the spelling of my name on my Medicare card and contacting the university regarding my incorrect timetable were just some of the surprises that made me understand the importance of resilience in a new environment. 

"Moving forward, I would like to continue to balance academia with events run by charities and societies. I intend to learn from the leaders of these activities and eventually take up leadership roles of my own. Many older medical students in their fourth to sixth years work as tutors during practical anatomy classes. This has inspired me to strive to be a tutor in my later years as well. 

“I’m very grateful for the ACG Founders’ Scholarship, which has not only allowed me to focus on my academic studies in a new country but has also enabled me to give back to my parents. As a result, I intend to continue to participate in charity events and work hard to benefit the community, especially New Zealand.”