University student and junior doctor Israa Bondoqa is tirelessly working on the frontline while also studying for her masters.

Israa is studying at the University of Portsmouth for her masters in research, an MRes, in endoscopic measurements, and is – or was, before Covid 19 – a general surgeon at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital.

She started her MRes studies last autumn, and hopes to graduate this September.

Normal life for her stopped, as it did for most of the world, when lockdown came into force. 

Her tutor in the School of Computing, Dr Alice Good, offered Israa the chance to defer her academic studies when the pandemic struck and she was required to work longer shifts treating patients, some with coronavirus. 

But despite being deployed from surgery, where she was a few months away from her medical exams to qualify as a registrar, she chose to continue to do both.

You spend a lot of time studying for your medical exams and to suddenly find the world has paused is strange.

Dr Israa Bondoqa, Surgeon and masters student

She said: “Studying helps add to a person. I’d been away from academic learning since I graduated from medical school, and to be able to study and learn is a good thing, it’s very helpful.

“Before Covid 19, I wanted to study, alongside working as a surgeon, to improve my CV and, although it was sometimes tricky to fit in learning and studying alongside shifts, that was nothing compared to what happened in lockdown.”

As the crisis took hold, across the UK most hospital doctors had to move out of their area of specialism to help on the frontline. 

She said: “At the beginning, no one knew what was going to happen next. All leave was cancelled, then our medical exams were put on hold, then many of us were deployed to new areas of the hospital and all elective surgery was cancelled. 

“But we all quickly became used to it, we are all in this together and nothing that’s now happening is beyond our capabilities to handle.

“You spend a lot of time studying for your medical exams and to suddenly find the world has paused is strange. 

“Our lives as doctors are always very fast. You’ve got exams to study for and long hours are normal, but Covid 19 has, in a way, given many people a chance to pause. Despite all that is going on, I’ve found that I’m refreshed even and recharging a little. 

“Sometimes I think I’ve lost a lot of time to build my career, but I’ve gained more experience in areas of general medicine, including COVID-19 diagnosis, and I am thankful to be alright and doing well so far.”

On day shifts, Israa works 8am to 8pm then, gets a train home to Winchester and goes to bed. 

But, when she’s working nights, she can find a few hours each morning, before going to bed, in which to study for her masters.

Her masters tutor Dr Alice Good said: "Israa is a dedicated and hardworking young woman, who not only has put her own life at risk working on the front line, but somehow manages to find the time to study for a Masters in Research during an extremely busy schedule.  We are very grateful to her commitment to help fight the war against this pandemic."