As if graduating medical school top of her year, plus playing hockey for the women’s National League team wasn’t enough, Katelyn Aitchison this month received the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s award for being the overall outstanding student of 2017/18! With such talent under her belt, we thought we would try and grab a couple of minutes with her before she rushes off to her next challenge!
I have just graduated from the Medicine course at the University of Birmingham, and am now about to start life as a fully-fledged Doctor! In addition, I finished top of my year group whilst representing UOB’s Ladies 1st hockey team and therefore was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s prize. The standard medicine course is 5 years long but I also did an intercalated degree in medical research so will qualify with a BSc in Clinical Sciences, as well as my MBChB.
When deciding on where to go for University I just wanted somewhere that offered me the best of both in terms of medicine and hockey, so there really was no better option than Birmingham. With UoB being the only university team that currently plays in the National League, there is just no where else in the UK that can offer such excellence in terms of an education but also on the hockey pitch.
I have had the most incredible 6 years and the University of Birmingham holds a very special place in my heart. There are so many things I love about it that it seems impossible to summarise in a few sentences, but I’ll try!
Undoubtedly, one of my favourite things about UoB is the gorgeous red brick campus and amazing sports facilities we have. When I walk on to campus, into the medical school or onto the hockey pitches it honestly feels like home. I’ve also been fortunate enough to make some life-long friendships at Birmingham. I feel part of a much bigger community, and being part of UOB Hockey has played a fundamental role in that.
I started playing hockey aged 8 at junior school, but in all honesty netball was my passion until I moved to secondary school at 13. My new school only really offered hockey so I put all my energy and focus into that. I also joined Surbiton Hockey Club around the same time and that’s when my passion for the sport really took off. I’ve always played in the forward line; I think mainly because when I was young I was miles taller than everyone else so could just sprint down the wing past the defenders! As my hockey improved, I began to play a bit of regional level stuff as a junior but that was really the extent of it before coming to university.
Playing hockey at UoB has massively helped me develop as a player. From the start I had played on the Wednesday 1st team for BUCS but in my first couple years or so I was predominately playing in the 2nd team on a Saturday, with the occasional call up to the 1st team who were playing in the National League. We have a ridiculous amount of talent in our squad and playing week-in, week-out with those girls really helped me push myself and grow as a player and probably by the end of my 3rd year I was establishing myself as a consistent member of the Saturday 1st team. I’ll always be grateful to my team-mates and Phil for fostering that kind of environment.
My favourite thing about being part of UBSport and this hockey club is the community that I’m a part of. I’ve made some of my very best friends on that hockey pitch and we honestly have so much fun together. I always leave training or a match feeling 10x better than I did when I arrived and it’s one of the things that I always looked forward to in my week. I also think that having that camaraderie is so conducive to a successful, progressive sporting environment. We’re all athletes at the end of the day wanting to make those personal improvements and meet our goals, and having that genuine support and love from your team mates makes it so much easier. We all want to see each other succeed and we’re always so proud of those successes when they come, whether that be on or off the pitch.
We call it the “UOBHC family”, and it genuinely does feel like that. I’ve been in the fortunate position of playing in the club for 6 years and in doing so I’ve seen so many girls come and go. Girls who are older, younger, GB athletes, even Olympic gold medallists (!), but we all have this one thing tying us together, and that’s a really special thing in my eyes. For me that culminated in when I received my trophy for 50 caps for UOBHC in the National League, and I burst into tears at match tea!
It has been tricky at times to manage my course and playing national league hockey, but by no means impossible. Luckily, we have a hugely understanding coaching team who fundamentally appreciate that we are primarily at university to qualify with a degree. The most important skill I think I gained during my 6 years was learning to be very organised and proactive. As long as I planned my time well and was efficient when I needed to be, I was able to manage the workload fine.
Nevertheless, we all occasionally go through heavy work periods, but as long as I was open and honest about those I was always given the time that I needed to dedicate to my studies. I also think being given that respect and trust from the coaching team comes around full circle. I found it made me that much more committed to the team, wanting to get my work done so that I was able to get to training and play the matches.
Ultimately, playing on the hockey team was also a huge stress reliever for me. It was my time where my brain switched off and I didn’t have to think about medicine at all. I could just get a bit of a sweat on and have a laugh with my friends, so definitely good for my mental as well as physical health!
I was absolutely thrilled and honoured to be awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Prize. It came as such a surprise and was just the most fantastic way to round off my 6 years at Birmingham. I have put in a lot of hard work and effort over the duration of my course, so it was really nice to have such a brilliant memento of that. It also meant that my entire family (…a crew of 8, including my 91-year-old grandma over from Canada!) got to have a front row seat to the graduation ceremony – so that was a really special moment for me.
I’m now moving down to London to start my first job as a junior doctor at St. Mary’s hospital in Paddington. I’m really excited, I know it’s going to be challenging but it feels great to finally start work after 6 years of training! With regards to hockey I haven’t made any decision as of yet. I definitely want to keep playing but think it’s best to get settled in to living in a new city and the new job before I commit to a team. However, there are lots of great clubs in the area so I’m sure it won’t be long before I get the itch to join somewhere!