Dr Bilal Pandor was born and grew up in Bradford and was the first in his family to attend university. He achieved excellent grades in his A levels at Dixons City Technology College before progressing to study Medicine at the University of Leeds. There, because of his outstanding academic record and his familys financial circumstances, he received a scholarship worth £3,000 per year. Five years later he completed medical school and since then has been working as a junior doctor whilst undertaking postgraduate foundation training.
Before applying to university, Bilal took part in The NHS needs you! This was a pre-entry support programme delivered in 2006 jointly by the Universities of Bradford and Leeds with funding from the Brightside Trust. It aimed to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into becoming healthcare professionals. It included four evening events at the University of Bradford and an entire day at the University of Leeds. He confided, I knew nothing about university or medicine for that matter. It helped visiting two different universities and learning about the NHS. Bilal also took advantage of the medicine-focussed summer school delivered by the University of Bradford with support from the medical school at Leeds.
Later, while he was a medical student, Bilal was employed as a summer school student host for two successive years. On each occasion he was one of a group of university students who, for a week, had round the clock responsibility for a group of 16-year-old students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It was fun. I felt I understood their concerns. The main reason I did this job was to give back the kind of help Id received. I wanted others to benefit in the same way I had.
Apart from the summer school jobs, he avoided taking on paid work whilst he was a university student. Instead he preferred to live as frugally as possible. He wasnt interested in conspicuous consumption and was happy to remain living in his parents home in Bradford. This meant he could maintain strong links with his mosque and local community.
Bilals religion is central to his life. As a Muslim, hes committed to living life in a way that puts his faith into action and practice. This includes doing everything he can to help other people. His priority is good citizenship. He firmly believes that people can do well both in religious matters and in worldly careers. As a university student I was an active member of my mosque in the evenings, at weekends and in the holidays. In addition to worship and religious studies he served the community. There are responsibilities such as visiting the sick and the bereaved and helping families through problems. Bilal then explained, While I was at university I devoted 40 days per year to service. As part of this Id often Id spend a weekend at a mosque in another part of the country. I even went to Bombay to support a mosque community there. Bilal was regularly involved in a teaching capacity for example delivering reformation programmes to help people who felt lost, troubled or confused.
Bilal needed considerable organisational skills to fulfil these religious commitments and achieve high standards in his medical studies. He commented, Theres a good train service between Bradford and Leeds. I became an expert at using it! Although it was a sacrifice commuting every day it was well worth it. Looking back Im glad of the choices I made. - As told to Carreen Dew in July 2013