The Unofficial Guide to Medicine - a chat with Marie Jasim

by Ruth Price on 31 Aug 2016

The Unofficial Guide to Medicine is publishing house which began in 2012 with a grant from the MDU to Zeshan Qureshi, who currently works as a paediatrician in London. It now has six books in print with seven more on the way. Marie Jasim, Executive Assistant at The Unofficial Guide to Medicine, agreed to answer some of our questions:

Can you tell us how Zeshan Qureshi came up with the idea to start this publishing company?

Zeshan is one of the busiest people I’ve ever met. He’s so ambitious and keen to get involved with so much. He’s always been this way and I think he was fed up with textbooks that weren’t delivering high-yield information. This is still his primary main goal with all of our books: to ensure they clearly state exactly what students need to know, without all the waffle. The first title, ‘The Unofficial Guide to Passing OSCEs’ was the first project and he worked hard to keep it as concise and as relevant as possible. From there, he’s expanded by tapping into an underused resource: enthusiastic juniors and students who are passionate about teaching. Peer tutoring plays a big role in most medical schools, but it hadn’t previously been applied to textbook learning. He’s building a community of students teaching students. It’s a wonderful idea.

He seems to be key to the success of the company, but also very busy. Do you get to see him much?

Not often – we’re both super-busy. I’m a medical student and do a lot of the work from ‘home’ (university library). I see Zeshan in person every month or so, but I contact him pretty much every day! We do a lot of work behind the scenes. He is definitely central to the company’s success. I don’t know how he finds time to be a doctor as he’s always at the end of his phone responding to the massive daily influx of messages he gets. He loves meeting students and always wants to hear their ideas – he encourages everyone he meets to keep in touch…and most of them do!

What do you think has made The Unofficial Guide… series so popular?

A few things, really. They’re great books - they regularly win awards. But I think the whole idea of it is appealing: the notion of a peer-led publishing company. We donate our profits to charity too, and recycle a lot of the money we make back into funding medical education events. Many medical students enter the profession because they’re conscientious people. It doesn’t feel bad to spend money on something that will benefit your learning and the wider community – and your future patients!

Tell us how you go about deciding what to publish a book on, and how you find the writers?

I think ultimately we’d like to produce books on everything but with so many contributors, it does take a while to complete a textbook. So far, we’ve been focusing on clinical subjects – things the editors have been particularly keen to provide teaching on. We have a rigorous recruitment process where we set several tasks to assess students’ writing, editing and reviewing skills. Students will then be given a chapter to write. It would be a small enough topic that can be researched thoroughly. We’re usually inundated with requests to write for us so the only difficulty is sieving through applications from so many talented people.

You offer elective placements at The Unofficial Guide to Medicine. What sorts of things would a student do while they worked with you?

They’d be taking on the role of a Publishing Assistant/ In-House Apprentice. The work is varied and would aim to introduce students to what goes on behind the scenes at a publishing house. They would be involved in administrative tasks, marketing jobs, and would be responsible for liaising with a huge number of contacts. They could also be involved with the publishing process itself: writing reviews, proofreading or overseeing all the work involved with having so many contributors! We also attend a lot of conferences to promote the company. Students could help run a stall, meeting directly with the target market – and there would be opportunities to get involved in public speaking too!

You have been involved with The Unofficial Guide to Medicine for a couple of years now. How did you get involved?

I actually started off as a contributor for one of the books. I’ve since written a couple of chapters, reviewed a book, and my son has modelled for the Paediatrics book!

I’m a collector of medical textbooks. I think I’ve spent over a grand on textbooks in the last few years! Admittedly, a lot of them have never been read, but they look good on my shelves! It made sense to get involved in the project and I just haven’t stopped getting involved. I think the company has some very exciting days ahead, and it’s rewarding to play a part in its growth whilst working alongside so many inspirational and ambitious people.

You can find more information about The Unofficial Guide to Medicine on their website: http://unofficialguidetomedicine.com/

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