Building your medical portfolio and CV
Updated: Jun 30
A key part of medical school is building your portfolio and CV for applying to future doctor job positions - both within the UK and beyond. There are several things you can do during medical school (it's always better to start early) to ensure your CV is packed with interesting experiences that have aided in your personal and professional development. This blog post details some of the things that I have done that have helped to build my portfolio and CV. Please be aware that this is a medical CV for when you are going to be a doctor. Your casual job CV will be different!
The CV guide and template that I have used can be found here.
The structure usually follows:
Undergraduate Training: Prizes & Awards
Experience Relevant to Speciality
Achievements Outside of Medicine
It is ok for this CV to be very empty - mine is too! This gives you an idea of things you can achieve throughout the 5 years.
So what can you realistically do as a medical student?
Undergraduate Training: Prizes and Awards
Prizes or awards that you have won within the medical field are a good addition to any CV or portfolio - however, they do have to be national or international prizes and delivered by a recognised organisation. I have been awarded 1st place prizes for 2 national medical student essay competitions - I will write a blog post on these soon. Furthermore, by presenting your abstract at a conference, you may win a prize too.
Scholarships, any merits/distinctions in your exams and any other particular achievements that may be relevant to the specialty you are applying for will also count towards this section.
Experience relevant to the specialty
I have made a conscious effort to put myself out there and take on roles in student societies to get some exposure to medical specialties that I may want to pursue and because I enjoy the events! I have interests in surgery, in particular specialties such as Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Plastic Surgery and Neurosurgery. I am interested in health inequalities and healthcare leadership too. I have taken up leadership positions in student societies such as being President of my university’s African Caribbean Medical Society 19-20 and Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society 20-21. I have not only attended many conferences, especially surgical ones, but I have also run my own conference! You receive certificates from attending conferences so keep these as evidence. All of this counts towards experience relevant to the specialty you want to go into! You can read more about my experience running a society and a conference here.
This can be any research projects that you have extensively worked on or contributed to. The research that you have done holds more weight if it has been published. This can demonstrate a strong academic background, which is desirable for doctor posts that are higher up the career ladder (e.g. Specialist Registrar).
I work as a student ambassador and my role sometimes requires me to teach clinical skills to students between 11-18 years old. This has allowed me to build on my teaching skills and adapting my teaching styles to suit different age groups. Another way to accumulate valuable teaching experience is to be a tutor. Teaching skills are desired for future doctor jobs, especially for Core and Surgical training programmes. Many junior doctors teach medical students or help to guide them with the junior doctor application. This all counts as teaching experience, as long as it's long-term and formal.
Having up to 2 publications can add 2 extra points (1 point each) onto your FPAS (Foundation Programme Application Scheme) for your junior doctor positions across the country. However, they can hold more weight as you advance throughout your career and go on to further training.
Publications are by no means necessary, but they are desired! However, there are a few requirements that you must meet for your publication to be counted for the FPAS:
It must have a PubMed ID (be published in an open access journal that is indexed to PubMed)
You must be a named author, you do not have to be the first author (collaborators do not count)
Most medical students work under a supervisor/researcher to produce a manuscript on a project they are interested in (e.g. this can be a Student Selected Component – SSC). Essay competitions may also have publications as prizes, and you can get published as the only author that way (as I did).
Presentations of an abstract you have written or research you have conducted at national or international conferences/events are also impressive additions to your portfolio and CV. They also show that you have academic rigour which makes you an attractive applicant (especially for an AFP – Academic Foundation Programme).
I have applied to and completed 2 additional courses that my university has offered. One was a leadership module, during which I completed a series of assessments in order to have the module added to my educational transcript and the other was a Global Experience Award. See if your institutions offer such opportunities or take up some leadership courses externally if interested!
Achievements outside of Medicine
These can demonstrate that you are a well-rounded individual who not only excels in Medicine but does so beyond your curriculum. I have (luckily) been awarded for my work outside of medical school such as being featured as a Top 150 Future Leader 2019-20, winning the CUBO RA Award for my work as a Community Facilitator for King's Residences and invited to 10 Downing Street.
Have a working copy of your CV and update it throughout medical school. This is a great way to keep a record of your achievements and reflect on them to inform your next steps.
For full details on what counts for points on your FPAS application, please see my blog post: The FPAS Made Easy