Guest Blog: Medical School and Beyond Conference 2021

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Today on the MDS Outreach blog we have a post, from Chevonne Risbrooke, a medical student at the University of Birmingham and Vice President of the African and Caribbean Medical Society (ACMS).

The Medical School and Beyond Conference is an annual event hosted by the African and Caribbean Medical Society in collaboration with Melanin Medics. Our theme for this year was ‘Medics in Transition’ looking at the journey through different careers in medicine while placing a focus on the evolving future of medicine. The conference was free to delegates and hosted on Zoom on Saturday 6th March from 10:00- 4:30pm. The day saw over 90 attendees and 10 event speakers and included an Aspiring Medics workshop targeted specifically at young and upcoming black prospective medical students.

Planning and preparation for this conference began in early January with committee members from ACMS and representatives from Melanin Medics. In the era of virtual events, we hoped to deliver a conference that reflected the experience of in-person conferences from a time not so long ago. As such, the structure of the day included feature speakers followed by a Q&A panel during the first half of the day, and after lunch there were workshops and networking opportunities. This year’s conference brought together a community of black doctors, current and prospective medical students.

Our line-up of feature speakers from the various specialties included:

• Foundation Training- Dr Gabrielle Baptiste
• General Practice- Dr Gabrielle Macaulay
• Paediatrics- Dr Leah Simpson
• Urology- Mr Jonathan Makanjuola

During their talks’ speakers shared their stories of their journey through medicine thus far and their advice to students. Themes such as resilience, self-awareness, perseverance, and motivation were a common thread within their talks. The Q&A panel which proceeded allowed attendees to have their burning questions about particular specialties and their training pathways as well as their work-life balance answered.

The second half of the day featured workshops covering a broad and interesting range of topics. Attendees were able to select and join their preferred session as well as move between sessions if they desired. The workshops and the speakers included were:

• Aspiring Medics -Khadija Owusu & BWAMs
• Making the most of medical school- Ayomide Ayorinde
• Medicine & Leadership- Adanna Anomneze-Collins
• MedTech: The Future of Medicine- Tony Okafor
• Leaving Medicine- Dr Femi Williamson-Taylor

The Aspiring Medics session was particularly created for prospective medical students and led by Khadija Owusu. Khadija is the Director of Programmes at Melanin Medics and Ambassador at Medics2You. She has been a guest of Michelle Obama at the White House; won the Women in STEM Award by HRH Princess Ann. Khadija continues to be a trail blazer and inspiration to young people from the black community and this proved to be true at the Aspiring Medics workshop. Prospective students were taken through the general application process for medical school given advice on how to prepare a strong application. They were sign-posted to useful resources and given great tips from Efua, a representative of Birmingham Widening Access to the Medical Sciences Society (BWAMS). To conclude the events of the day, there were networking sessions, where attendees were able to ask further questions to speakers.

Altogether, the conference was well received by attendees. Despite the limitations of virtual conferences, it did bring with it the advantage of accessibility. Within the scope of widening participation, this beneficial as it by-passes many of the barriers that may face students from ethnic minority backgrounds. When asked about key takeaways from the conference, these were just some of the reflections from attendees.

‘Perseverance. How important it is to keep going even when all odds seem against you.’

‘Everyone has different stories but were still able to achieve great things.’

‘Take the leap of faith to embark in my desired endeavours. Be as proactive as possible.’

‘Failure is an opportunity to learn, you can do anything you put your mind to, there’s more failure in not trying than in trying and failing.’

‘I can do it!’

Similarly, attendees particularly resonated with the experience of seeing numerous black healthcare professionals, from different specialties, together in one forum. Events such as this emphasises the importance of increasing visibility of black professionals to inspire, motivate and support the upcoming generation, to champion greater diversity in medicine.

Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to all those who made our conference possible. Special thanks to the planning committee: Emeka, Damilola, Semilore, Neriah, Oluranti, Nadia, Limaro and Kamille as well as to Dr Clare Ray and Tom Syder for their support. It was an absolute pleasure working with you all to execute an amazing conference!

To learn more about the African and Caribbean Medical Society and Melanin Medics connect with us on our social media platforms listed below!

MDS Outreach can be found using the following links:
Twitter: @UoB_MDSOutreach
Instagram: @uob_mdsoutreach

Author: Clare Ray

Clare Ray is the College of Medical and Dental Sciences lead for Outreach and Widening Participation.