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Reading Economics Alum James Cutlan always had a passion for both economics and medicine. Little did he guess that these twin enthusiasms would eventually lead him to the frontline fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

An early fascination with Economics

“I was studying A-level Economics during the 2007-08 financial crisis. Everything I was learning in the classroom was happening directly outside the window! It made my studies relate to the real world in a big way. This led me to pursue an economics degree; I wished to further my understanding of both macro and microeconomics."

Choosing Reading

Having made the decision to take his interest to degree level, the question was, which University? James was attracted to Reading for two main reasons. 

"One was the location - it was close enough to London for great employability, yet there was this fantastic campus full of natural beauty. The other reason was the choice and variety of optional modules - the Economics course at Reading enabled me to explore areas such as financial accounting, econometrics and climate change. It also incorporated both medicine and economics through modules in public economics including health economics and an excellent module in the history of economic thought.

"I really enjoyed my time at Reading and the Department of Economics was fantastic. I threw myself into university life becoming President of the Economics Society, working open days, and developing long-lasting relationships with course mates and my tutors."

Strong groundwork for a wide range of careers

However, James never forgot his passion for medicine and incorporated this where he could. He explains: 

"The optional modules I studied continued to fuel my interest in medicine, as did my time spent volunteering at the Royal Berkshire Hospital where I had the opportunity to talk to patients about their healthcare journeys in the setting of a large hospital.

"My personal tutor also helped me pursue my interest in medicine - we discussed what the transition in studies would be like and what skills I had developed at Reading that could help me as a medical student. He also provided my academic reference for my medical school application. He was an incredible support to me and we've stayed in touch since." 

James is glad he studies economics before embarking on his journey of medicine: 

"I believe that being an Economics graduate gave me a great advantage - I had three years of self-directed study at Reading, of learning to live away from home and understanding how a university works. Economics equipped me with transferable skills such as essay writing, appraising peer reviewed studies and gave me a higher understanding of the statistical component of epidemiology which is something many medical students fear!

"Plus, my economics degree continues to make me think about the bigger picture in healthcare whilst always placing the patient at the centre of it. I really hope to use my two degrees together in my career."

Along came Covid

When COVID-19 disrupted Dr James Cutlan's medical degree, he seized the opportunity to start working early for the NHS and join the fight against the pandemic. While the new virus dramatically changed the course of James' professional plans, he saw only opportunity and is proud to be part of the effort to fight the pandemic. 

"Due to COVID-19 my final year assistantship - the final placement of medical school - was cut short by over a month and my graduation was brought forward by three months. like many of newly qualified doctors, I opted to work early in posts called 'Foundation Interim Year 1'. This is a brand new job that's been created because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I see graduating early as an opportunity - I personally feel a sense of national duty to use the skills I've built up during my five years studying medicine, and three years studying economics at Reading, to help out as much as I can on the frontline."

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