Be the Master of Your Own Destiny (with a little help from the BGS!)

Dr Sarah White

In my fourth year as a medical registrar I was feeling disheartened with gruelling on-calls, never ending night shifts and the constant daily battle and bureaucracy on the wards.  I decided to undertake a masters degree to re-awaken my passion for learning and medicine.  I opted to do the Gerontology Masters at King’s College, London.



Several friends had undertaken part time MSc’s and all had bemoaned the difficulty of balancing a full time job and on-call commitments with essay writing, examinations and lengthy dissertations.  As one part-time masters friend put it, she did “just enough to get by”, which greatly reduced her masters experience.  I wanted to the get the most out of my masters and give it my full attention hence decided to do it full time over one year.  However, the major downside of being a full time student is lack of income!  Masters fees are expensive (mine cost £6,500), regular travel to university from outside London was not cheap; printing and photocopying costs were an unexpected and substantial outgoing; not to mention the ever increasing cost of living.  Needless to say I relied on personal savings, sporadic locum shifts and a very understanding fiancé to support me through the year.

A few months into the start of my degree a friend told me about the BGS Masters Scholarship, a national essay competition with a financial prize, I was all ears!  However, it was not only my desire for cold hard cash (I am no Jordon Belfort after all, just a typical geriatrician) there were other incentives to enter the competition.  I had not written an essay in over a decade and my early attempts had been heavily ‘red penned’ by my King’s supervisors, I therefore decided my academic writing could do with some practise.  The BGS Masters Scholarship competition provided an additional opportunity to research a topic, write a balanced piece and receive feedback.  The title chosen, ‘Do Policies that Promote Admission Avoidance Benefit or Disadvantage Older People?’ was also appealing to me being a geriatrician with an interest in acute and interface geriatrics.   As a penultimate year registrar with consultant interviews looming it also seemed like a good time to concentrate on enriching my CV with extra challenges.  I therefore entered the BGS Masters Scholarship Competition for a multitude of reasons but never really expected to win.

When I did win, it was a truly unexpected bonus in many ways.  The money helped enormously (it covered the cost of my masters fees) and my essay was printed in the BGS Newsletter which is a great addition to my CV.  Winning a National speciality focused competition also looks impressive and provided a talking point at my consultant interviews.  My confidence in my writing skills has also grown and I have since written several short pieces, including an article for the BMJ in conjunction with a friend, comparing our MSc experiences (  If you are considering entering the BGS Masters Scholarship competition, then consider no longer, as I discovered ‘those who dare, win’ (and in more ways than one)!

The BGS now invites submissions for the 2014 BGS Masters Scholarship Award.

Eligibility Criteria – Candidates

  • Must hold a UK NTN in Geriatric Medicine
  • Must have written support from their training programme director
  • Must be a member of the British Geriatrics Society

Eligibility Criteria – Degrees

Taught Masters course at a UK University. Degrees in Geriatrics, Gerontology, Medical Education, Medical Ethics and Health Services Research will be supported.

The Award £3,000 – £7,000 spread over 1 – 3 years. More expensive courses (up to £10,000) may be considered but clear justificaton must be provided for the course of study chosen and the additional costs incurred.

The Competition Candidates will have to enter a national competition. The competition in 2014 will be based upon a 3,000 word essay entitled:

“What and where is the older person’s ‘Community’ and is the geriatrician part of it?”

Deadline for Submission of Application and Essay

1 September 2014. Please go to :

for how to apply. Any questions please email Joanna Gough



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