Dr Hadi Hassenzadeh, the first person in his family to attend university, studied Medicine at Leeds and graduated in July 2013. Hes able to communicate with an unusually wide range of colleagues and patients as hes not only fluent in English but also in Azeri, Persian and Turkish. When he was a school age student in Leeds his ambition to become a doctor had not appeared to be realistic. After all, he spent his GCSE years at an inner city high school that was ranked amongst the worst in the country for its national examination results.
However, whilst studying for his A levels at a different state sector comprehensive school, he seized the chance to take part in a six month long, non-residential support programme called The NHS needs you! organized jointly by the Universities of Bradford and Leeds with funding from the Brightside Trust. The programme was for gifted students from groups under-represented in higher education. It aimed to help them access competitive-entry, health-related programmes. It was amazing, Hadi recalled. It helped me a lot.
The University of Leeds uses contextual data for student admissions so when he applied to study Medicine there he received a dual offer. He gained his place with the help of the Access to Leeds scheme. He was also awarded a University of Leeds scholarship. This provided financial support for four years including the year he spent achieving an intercalated BSc (Hons) in International Health.
Throughout his 6 years at medical school, Hadi supplemented his scholarship and student loans with some paid employment. He had 2 jobs. Both could be undertaken flexibly in the evenings, at weekends or during holidays. This meant he was also able to fulfil his academic and clinical commitments as well as find time for volunteering and fund raising.
His job as a youth leader for St Stephens Church in Leeds developed from the years hed spent helping out with a youth club that served a deprived inner city area. Hadis face lit up at the memory. They were great kids. I love working with young people. He also gained the skills and driving qualifications needed to take on work delivering, installing and repairing washing machines and cookers. There arent many medical students with professional experience of this kind. Hadi remembered with a smile: When I was on placement at one hospital I surprised a lot of people when I fixed the hospital washing machine. The clothes were locked in as the washer was not draining. I just had to repair the pump.
For relaxation at the end of his intercalated year, he joined a group of university students for a charity bike ride and pedalled 550 miles from Leeds to Berlin. His interest in long distance cycling had been kindled at the end of his first year of medical school when he took part in a charity bike ride from Lands End to John OGroats. He enjoyed the experience so much that a year later he organised another similar 960-mile challenge. This meant planning the route, making camping arrangements, sorting out supplies, recruiting cyclists and sponsors and driving the support van and minibuses for the duration of the expedition. The group had various adventures and collectively raised over £24,000 for childrens charities.
Hadi has also enjoyed helping at medical school outreach events. I think its important that young people see for themselves what its like at university especially if, like me, they have parents who dont know much about it. - As told to Carreen Dew (July 2013)