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I've just finished my first year at Liverpool University, and so I've decided to write a few reviews of my time there. Over the past year I've experienced a bit of the course, the highs and lows of exams, relationships, friendships and of course Nights Out On The Town!
First things first, one of my highlights of this year has been the LMSS, The Liverpool Medical Students Society, which you can't fail to get involved in somehow or another as a medical student at Liverpool. To people studying medicine, or who have studied medicine at Liverpool Uni, most of this review may be common knowledge to you. To anyone planning to come to Liverpool, I hope this gives you a vague idea of what to expect. And to anyone else who is merely curious about what we Medics get up to, I hope this gives you some interesting insight. Either way, feel free to ask me any questions you like, but keep in mind at the time of writing this I've only done one year out of five or six!
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY... ***~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*** The LMSS is the longest-running students society at the University of Liverpool. It was founded over 130 years ago and pre-dates the University itself... quite impressive really. I have a personal interest in The Society's history, so most of this little section I've got from reading some local history leaflets and things. It was originally called the "Liverpool Royal Infirmary School of Medicine Debating Society" (quite a mouthful... that's why it was known as "MSDS" for short!) in 1874.
It was entirely made up of boys, and they debated such things as whether girls should be let into the medical school. Quite ironic as it turns out, because over a century later, our course is now 60% girls to 40% lads! The Society finally decided to admit female medical students in 1905, which must have been quite a shock to their system!
The name change to the "LMSS" in 1943 shows how The Society was being recognised as doing far more than merely debating, including fundraisers and social events. So from Debating Society to Medical Students Society, here's a little bit of what we get up to now...
THE SOCIETY NOW... ***~~~~~~~~~~~~~*** The Society doesn't really debate topics any longer, although debating competitions do occur between us and local universities with prizes for best speakers and the winning team. Roles of the society have changed drastically, and are very varied.
Academically, The Society gives support to students throughout the course through case presentations and meetings with faculty. The Society also caters for Students' social needs, appointing officers to organise key social events, some of which have been going for decades. The weekly meetings on Thursday evenings are presided over by the three key officers, and are packed with traditions which have again been carried on for decades.
THE OFFICERS... ***~~~~~~~~~*** I can't remember the exact date that the first Student President was elected. Before that, the Debating Society only had an Honorary President... a member of the faculty of medicine. I still need to do a bit more research into the matter, but I think the first Student President may have been a lad called 'Dickie Stopford-Taylor' who was unanimously elected and pushed into the president's chair on the spot.
Towards the end of each year we have our annual Hustings, where candidates are put forward for the three major student positions of The Society. These are...
~PRESIDENT: So far I've met the last three Presidents of The Society. Their job is to chair the weekly society meetings, send out e-mails to everyone regarding what social events are coming up, meet with faculty if anything goes drastically wrong (happened quite a few times last year... more about that later!), and take the brunt of blame and stick when anyone needs a scapegoat. Chantings of "Resign!" is quite common! The Presidents are on mostly male. I've got a list of Presidents from 1943 onwards, and I think only one or two have been female. Usually the President is a fourth year or intercalating student (extra year-long project between 4th and 5th year), and will need to have done a lot for The Society over the years to get elected.
~TREASURER: Likewise, I know the last three treasurers of The Society. As the name implies, they are in charge of budgeting for the society, allocating money to each of the different officers for social events, publications, charity events etc. and give a report at the end of the year. I think they are also in charge of organising the Summer Ball, though I might be mistaken. Again, this is normally a male position.
~SECRETARY: The secretary is almost always female. Again, from that list I have from 1943 there have only been a handful of male secretaries. Their job is to write the minutes of what happens in each meeting, to organise the locations for certain social events, and basically keep the President and Treasurer organised.
P.S. For more detailed job-descriptions of the above, look at the LMSS constitution which is on our website.
OTHER POSITIONS AND WHAT THEY DO... ***~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*** 1. ANNUAL SMOKER: I think we're up to the 125th Annual Smoking Concert, or something like that. Either way, there's been an awful lot of them. There are two Smoking Concert Chairmen, who are responsible for this inter-year competition. The first annual smoker must have been in the early
1880s, and involved a hotpot supper and smoker which lasted from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon. They were banned from that location for having too much of a good thing.
The Smoker is kept top secret from first years, who get quite a shock when they arrive. Each year, from first up to fifth, puts on a series of sketches or dances, some of which you'd need copious amounts of alcohol to be brave enough to perform. It is traditional for first years to be booed with choruses of "You're **** and you know you are!" but despite that we put on a surprisingly good show this year, with just the right competitive amount of nudity and sordidness. My only regret is sitting too far back without my glasses to fully appreciate the fifth year's spectacular Full Monty.
2. ARTEFACTS: It's not all alcohol-fuelled. There are lots of medics who don't drink, and some of us are only moderate drinkers. There are two Artefacts Reps who are in charge of the creative side of The Society, established in 1962. Each year they put on an annual play. This year I was in Pirates of Penzance, while previous productions include "Return to the Forbidden Planet," "The Hot Mikado" and "Calamity Jane". Of course drinking is optional, and there is a traditional lad's dash to the Cambridge for a few pints in the interval.
Artefacts is also responsible for organising music groups, such as this year's Acapella Choir, Kalidah Band, and String Quartet. We are long overdue a Major Artefacts, which is a sort of talent show, and hasn't been put on for a few years.
3. MENS/LADIES ANNUAL DINNER/PUBCRAWL: I wasn't able to get a ticket for the Ladies Dinner as I didn't realise just how popular it would be. Tickets for balls and dinners is generally around £30 which may seem like quite a lot for some people, and did for me at the time. The Men's Dinner used to be the Society's Annual Dinner, and as such is a very masculine affair... to be honest I can't think what happens at it. At the same time the girls have their pub-crawl, and so pour upon the lads at the end of the evening for a disco. When it's the ladies dinner the lads have their pub-crawl to pretty much the same effect. Dinner Reps are in charge of organising this.
4. ANNUAL BALL/SUMMER BALL: Every year several balls which involve a formal dinner, followed by a disco and various other entertainments. The Annual Ball is organised by the Ball Reps, and this year was held at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel in central Liverpool. To give you a flavour of things, we started off with a champagne reception with a 16-strong Barbershop Quartet. Everyone was dressed in lovely gowns and dinner jackets. I was a bit too drunk to fully appreciate the after dinner entertainment which apparently included a bouncy castle. But I did make it to the end of the disco.
The Summer Ball is usually a smaller affair. We took a bus out to Whiston, dressed in our cocktail dresses and finery. After being greeted with our very own Artefacts String Quartet and some refreshments there was a Hog Roast supper and disco... unfortunately no karaoke as promised! The Summer Ball has a reputation for us getting banned from venue after venue. I think this is a kind of urban legend effect, due to the fact that stories get passed round from the people who go to the Summer Ball. This year some lads decided to break into the swimming pool and go skinny dipping. Ok, there wasn't any proof, but they were wet when they came back. We ended up taking a bus (complete with Rugby songs) back to our favourite night club, The Raz, in our ball gowns.
5. CHARITY EVENTS: Charity Reps are involved with raising funds for the Society's elected charities. Last year these events included: Slave Auction, Fashion Show, Jail Break (though I think this was cancelled) and were very successful.
6. MEDICS SPORTS TEAMS: The Medics Rugby Team has an amazing feeling of comradery. Each member is given a nickname at Initiation (quite an ordeal by the sound of it). The Captain is always Skipper. The Chairman is always Mr C. They have their own social events, drunken rituals, traditions, and of course Tour. If you ask anyone what happened you are only told "What goes on tour stays on tour" but I managed to see a few photos anyway. I think they train once an evening, and use a flood-lit car park when evenings are darker.
The Medics Hockey Team is a mix of girls and guys. I saw the final where the medics spectacularly beat the Vets and Engineers. Their standard was very good, and they looked kind of dangerous. You don't have to be fantastic to join, and again they have their own social events and committee.
I don't know much about Medics Netball. They made a very good human caterpillar for the Slave Auction. Then again, so did the Rugby lads. The Sports Rep is in charge of organising and co-ordinating sporting activities, arranging funding with the Treasurer, and informing Society members about sports news at each Society meeting.
7. MEDICS PUBLICATIONS: The Publications Secretary is responsible for publications of The Society. Their main role is in publishing the medics' Journal "Sphincter" which normally comes out three times a year and is a mix of academic articles (e.g. advice on electives), more lighthearted articles (e.g. the Doctor Love agony aunt column), book reviews, people's experiences, and recent news and matters of interest. The pictures are usually vibrant and show embarrassing angles of students from social events. I think this Rep is also in charge of publishing dinner menus, and other Stationary of the Society, as well as helping with the Fresher's Guide. Sphincter Minimi is a newsletter that appears every now and again.
8: LMSSONLINE.CO.UK: The website is updated by the Webmaster. It has a forum which is underused and I find has a cynical sort of atmosphere, not reflecting what The Society is actually like. There are plenty of photos from the last four years of social events, though there could be more. Parts of the site are in drastic need of a make over, with some parts dating to two or three years ago, so that they are really out of date. You can find useful academic support material on there, as well as a timetable of social events, and the Medics' Song (a warning if you have a poor constitution or are a fan of engineers).
9. CASE PRESENTATIONS: The Academic Rep organises regular "Case Presentations". I've only been to one, and found it gave a really useful insight into what's to come on the course. Here, students present a case of a patient they have encountered in hospital, giving their signs and symptoms, history of the patient, and treatment. These presentations have a different theme each time. This year have been Primary Care, Surgery, Medicine, Obs & Gynae, and Paediatrics. They are useful revision for those listening as well as confidence-building for those talking. The Academic Rep and appointed Year Reps meet with faculty to discuss problems students have had with the course.
9. BUSINESS REP: The Business Rep is in charge of merchandise for the Society. You can buy anything from huddies, hats and t-shirts to Stethoscopes and latex gloves. The merchandise has the LMSS logo on it and examples are given on the Business Rep's website, fully modeled by students.
10. SOCIAL SECRETARIES: Social Secretaries are responsible for organising and co-ordinating all the social activities of the Society. Other events this year included Greyhound Racing and a Pub Quiz, Fresher's Initiation and a welcoming party and a cocktail party.
11. BMA LIASON OFFICER: The BMA Rep represents the Liverpool Medical School and its students in BMA matters and vice versa.
12. HOUSE SECRETARIES: House Secretaries are responsible for providing food and refreshments at Society meetings and Case Presentations. They work as a pair, and have to budget and estimate how much food is needed.
OTHER POSITIONS... ***~~~~~~~~~~~~~*** LMSS photographer. Mace Bearer. Horn Blower. Sanitary Inspector. House Detective. Guardian of the Yard.
OK, here we get onto the Thursday Meetings themselves and all the traditions that come with them.
THE MEETINGS... ***~~~~~~~~~~*** There are 300 medics or there abouts in each year and there are 5 years of medical students. It is a shame then that 1500 medics don't try to cram themselves into a lecture theatre for the Thursday meetings. Up until the end of last year, when we were unfortunately banned, meetings took place in the Jack Leggate Lecture Theatre, housed inside the Victoria Building... the famous redbrick clock tower that you may have seen in pictures of Liverpool University. Unfortunately only a handful of people come to the meetings, and although to the outsider it looks like a packed theatre apparently numbers are dwindling. Every year there is loads of recruitment for new first years at the Medics Freshers' Fair, and while many sign up and pay the membership fee, new members at meetings are very few.
However, the traditions are still going strong. Everyone gathers behind the wooden benches, the original benches from the "Old Surgery Lecture Theatre" that was used from about the turn of the century til the 1980s when the Jack Leggate was refurbished with them. The meeting starts with a roar of beating fists on these benches which lasts for an age. Then the committee members... the President, Treasurer and Secretary, make their way into the lecture theatre led by the Horn Blower and Mace Bearer. The President starts by asking if the last meeting's minutes are accurate, and then the meeting gets underway. Honoured guests are introduced. These are normally people who used to be medical undergraduates who are now in hospital and come back for the meetings. Each one is introduced with a string of achievements to their name, a huge list of Society positions they held during their time in the LMSS.
The meeting begins with business of the Society. The Treasurer steps forward, wearing his leopard skin cape, and trusty metal hat. We then take any coins that we can find spare and throw them down into the centre of the lecture theatre, as he tries to shield himself from this tumult of copper. When we were banned this tradition was moved to a local pub, the Vines, where money was collected into a plastic cup and unceremoniously poured over the Treasurer's head, a poor substitute for what is a hilarious tradition!
After the Treasurer's Report, it is the turn of the Secretary. She walks up and down the floor exposing the ceremonial garter, as male voices cry out profanities, which are undoubtedly sexist. Apparently this tradition dates back to the 1970s when the Secretary at the time accidentally pulled up her skirt revealing her slip. I think that's why it's carried on, though I can't imagine how it worked with a male secretary!
More Society business follows with different Society Reps being called
Pictures of Liverpool Medical Students Society (LMSS)
This Year's Committee, Adam, Helen and Rich, showing Steals and Uniform. Jack Leggate Theatre
on to speak from their positions behind the benches. It is tradition for any speaker to put on a hat, and one is thrown over to them from a large assortment from the table on the floor. They begin speaking by saying the required, "Mr President, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen". Things like sports results and upcoming events are discussed in this way. Private business is then discussed from non-committee members, which may include anecdotes and jokes.
The meetings are always different, sometimes with a guest speaker, sometimes with entertainment. I only attended a few meetings this year, which included Mark Waller... club doctor of Liverpool FC, Dangerous Dave... a fire-eating, flame-throwing, on-a-bed-of-nails-lying alcoholic, and the annual speech from this year's Honorary President.
"Steals" are something I haven't quite got my head around. The Society is sometimes associated with a small stuffed red fox. This is one of our many "Steals". Each year members of the Society take it upon themselves to steal the most creative things they can think of for some sort of prize. I don't quite understand how this works, but it is why we have a room packed full of weird and wonderful stuff, and a multitude of things displayed at meetings including a sign for Crown Street (local red light district), a hospital sign, a traffic sign... and other things which aren't signs.
WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF THE SOCIETY… ***~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*** The Society has its good points and bad points. I personally have found that I've made a lot of friends through it, in lots of different Years, which means I have someone to turn to if I need help from more experienced medics or just someone who knows what it's like to go through what I'm going through. I've had some great advice, and people to practice blood pressure and cardiovascular examinations on.
There are loads of social events planned, far many than any other subject at the University from what I can tell. Unfortunately some of these are a bit pricey, and depending on which one it is may have a lot of alcohol consumption and raunchiness associated with it. But there are plenty that do not if you are interested in something else.
I love the fact that we have such long-running traditions, and yet the Society is always changing and adapting. It's a shame that the Society is declining in numbers and things keep going wrong which get us banned… it's mainly an image problem that the LMSS is too "cliquey", even among medics. Well, it's true, if you go to the meetings and social events it's the same people who go again and again, so they get to know each other. Most members are really friendly and the people who get top positions in the society are outgoing and get to know everyone. So it isn't really a popularity contest, although it may look a bit like one.
I've enjoyed the Society so much this year because I've done my best to get involved with everything, and it's been a really good experience because of this. I've got to know more people than I would have done had I not joined in. You've just got to be brave and go for it. I've tried to get some of my friends more involved too, so hopefully next year there'll be a group of us, because it was a bit daunting just turning up on my own to meetings. The play was a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it. There are some great characters in the Society.
You may have heard it said that if you want to go far as a doctor, the medical course is no longer enough. Everyone comes out of the system with the same qualifications and on paper they all look identical. So it's the things that are extra to medicine that make you stand out when applying for that competitive job in surgery. The Society is a really good way to boost your confidence and get involved with different things.
Of course there are negative things about the Society and I felt nervous about joining in when I first started because I didn't know anyone and there were problems with the Freshers' Guides, so I didn't feel very guided. It took me a good while to meet people and find my feet. There is a huge culture of drinking in the Society now, and with medics in general. Apparently alcohol never used to be consumed during meetings. Now it's a regular occurrence for people to bring crates of lager along. In the 1980s a runner would dash from the end of the meeting to a local pub to tell them to start pulling the pints. Instead we bring the pints to us. This is what made it all look a bit daunting to me, as I wasn't an experienced drinker. I've since realized this isn't the be all and end all as there's plenty to join in with.
The Society is changing its image with each successive year's election of a new committee. I just hope that it can get rid of its reputation for cliquey-ness and just get medics involved and meeting each other. Perhaps then it can regain some of its former glory and be a Society that more medics feel proud of, rather than annoyed at!
HOW TO JOIN… ***~~~~~~~~*** To join you have to be a Medical Student at the University of Liverpool, although Honorary Life Memberships have been given in the past to none-medics, such as Ronnie the Porter who has now retired. The joining fee is around £40 and lasts your whole time at Liverpool Uni. It is now also possible to join in later years for a cheaper fee. Upon joining you get a membership card with your photo on it which can get you a membership discount on LMSS merchandise, social events and sometimes free drinks and deals on specific nights out. It isn't really cost effective, but membership fees help to boost the Society financially so that they can continue to organise events for us. It's also nice to feel you belong by having a little card to say so. I recommend becoming a member, and then using your membership once you've got it, because a lot of people don't.