Widening Participation in the News

RobHi, it’s Rob again. For my final post as president of WAMS I thought I would reflect a bit on the report published this week by the Medical Schools Council on the back of their Selecting for Excellence audit. They have been looking for examples from around the country for novel approaches to widening access into medicine.

As I said in my first blog, as a group we are passionate about Widening Participation (WP) – helping people from ‘non-traditional backgrounds’ into medicine. This covers people from a wide range of backgrounds however – people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, those who are the first in their family to go to university, those from schools without a history of sending people to university, those who have been in care – the list goes on and on. And these groups are highlighted in the report. Widening participation in medicine is about making our work force of doctors truly representative of the diversity of our patients.

Medicine has always been a profession where students from a WP background have been under-represented, and it’s great that the MSC is finally giving guidance on good practice in the area. The report highlights the need to start work with primary school children and I am a huge supporter of this. Young people living in areas with inherently low aspiration levels do not suddenly realise they have potential overnight. It’s a slow process and requires not only a change in the way that they think, but perhaps equally importantly, in the way that their parents view both higher education and more specifically who can become a doctor. Indeed targeting parents is another point highlighted in the report.

I am a Senior Student Ambassador for the University of Nottingham’s Widening Participation department and I know that we already do some fantastic work both with parents and primary children (as well as secondary and sixth form youngsters). I hope that on the back of this report that other universities too will ensure that this is undertaken both at a general level but also specifically to medicine.

I feel that I am leaving my time with WAMS and also the University at the start of a time of great change in this area where we will continue to build on the work that has already been done, such that perhaps when I start to have medical students of my own as a consultant, they will truly be of a diverse group that reflects the diversity of the population we serve.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from CS Lewis, which I hope will be the way things go. It certainly sums up my time at medical school:

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…”