Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Areeb Mazhar

I remember sitting through a public health lecture given by a pair of overly enthusiastic GPs in my first year. At the end of the session, they curiously asked which of us were considering general practice as a career option. I feebly put my hand up and so did someone else. Only two students in a lecture theatre full of 240 students

Areeb Mazhar: 'I would pick an interesting person over an interesting medical condition every time.'
Areeb Mazhar: 'I would pick an interesting person over an interesting medical condition every time.'

So, why did I raise my hand?

During my time on the wards, I’ve realised that I wasn’t fascinated by rare medical conditions or special surgical techniques, but what really excited me was the background of the patient, the stories they had to tell me and how grateful they were that someone wanted to listen to them.

Without doubt, the medicine still interests me, but I would pick an interesting person over an interesting medical condition every time.

We forget that we are treating a person

Often in medicine, we sometimes become so laser-focused on the medical aspect of patient care; we forget that we are treating a person. General practice emphasises a holistic approach to the patient. An approach that makes a patient feel like a person.

I want to be able to comfort the elderly man who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer two weeks ago or reassure the anxious mother that the rash on her son’s face is not serious. Being in such a position to build a long-term rapport and relationship with a patient would be a privilege.

Anything and everything can walk through the consultation room

GPs are at the frontline of medicine and are the first point of contact for many patients. The truly challenging aspect of general practice, in my opinion, is that anything and everything can walk through the consultation room.

The modern GP must be able to differentiate the child presenting with a headache due to the common cold, from the similar presenting child that may have life-threatening meningitis. This difficulty in taking a comprehensive history and examination in a short time period, without any advanced scans and investigations and using this information to come to a diagnosis appeals to me. It is medicine in its purest form. The incredible variety of medical conditions and patient demographics is not found in any other speciality of medicine.

If those GPs asked our year group the same question today, I’d hope there would be more hands raised. I would hope that our journey through medical school so far has broken down some of the misconceptions and stereotypes attributed to general practice. Not only do I want to be a GP, I want to be involved in recruiting the next generation of GPs and showing medical students the positive light of general practice.

I genuinely believe that the future of the NHS is in general practice; I want to be part of that future.

* Areeb Mazhar is a medical student at Sheffield University.

Would you like to enter our Choosing General Practice essay writing competition? Email your essays of no more than 500 words explaining why you want to be a GP to win a John Lewis voucher worth £100 by 1 March 2015 to GP editor Neil Durham at

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