This week’s spotlight is taking a look at a society that are making a real difference in the community. Manchester Outreach Medics is a society based on voluntary work, made of of medical students from Manchester Medical School. The aim of the society is to “support young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in the aspirations for careers in medicine” in the surrounding Manchester area. They do this by organising and running workshops throughout the academic year which provide support to those looking to pursue a career in medicine, empowering students with information and insight about everything from the application process, to life as a medical student, all the way current ethical debates and explanations of issues faced by working doctors today.
This work could not be more important in today’s educational climate, where applications to medical schools are becoming more and more competitive, and places for those from low socioeconomic backgrounds becoming increasingly elusive.
A study by academics at Dundee and Central Lancashire university showed that of 33,000 applications, a hugely disproportionate amount of places were awarded to the wealthiest backgrounds, particularly in Scotland and Wales. These results support the fact that 80% of medical students come from professional households, with more than a quarter from private education.
According to an article by The Guardian, 50% of secondary schools across the UK have never had a pupil apply to medical school, a figure which Katie Petty-Saphon, chief executive of the Medical Schools council, called “completely appalling”. The researchers at UCLAN and Dundee also found that “while 12% of applicants across the UK came from the poorest 20% of neighbourhoods, only 7.6% of places at medical school went to people from those areas. By contrast, 42% of places were awarded to students from the richest 20%, even though only 36% of applicants came from those areas.”
This issue is not only one of access, but also affects the quality of medical care that lower socioeconomic backgrounds receive. Once medical students have graduated, many decide to return to their home town or stay in the area they studied in. With the relatively small amount of students coming from low income areas, the amount of medical professionals working in those areas tends the be lower than areas that produce more medical students. One fourth year medical student at Manchester said that, while many of the best hospitals are in London, the only people who can afford to train there are those whose parents already live there, or those with connections in London. This further closes off opportunities for those who do not come from London originally, or who cannot afford to live there.
This is why the work of Manchester Outreach Medics (MOMs) is so important. The support they provide for young aspiring medics is invaluable in allowing those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to break into the careers that the cycle of wealth would have previously held from them, by increasing their confidence and enabling them to achieve their full potential. This is beneficial for all, as the more young people who enter the profession from all backgrounds, the wider the talent pool becomes, making better healthcare accessible to all.
MOMs have designed a really excellent program to enable young aspiring students. The workshops they hold throughout the year are designed to appeal to all ages involved, from years ten to thirteen, inspiring those at a younger age to pursue a career in medicine, and informing those going through the application process on everything they need to get them in the front door. A spokesperson from the society said, “it’s a chance to help students like ourselves and give the information that we wished we had when we applied for medicine.” They also run an annual conference which is designed for year twelve pupils looking to apply for medicine, giving them an insight into what life is like for a medical student and how the course is taught; the volunteers run practice problem based learning sessions which can be a stark change from secondary teaching styles. It also has a seminar for teachers to attend, giving them the tools to best support students who wish to apply for medicine. Having a teacher or mentor at school who supports you can be invaluable for a young aspiring medical student, but as mentioned previously, half of the schools in the country have never had a pupil apply for medical school, so the process can be just as stressful and confusing for teachers as for students.
MOMs have been the recipient of Volunteer and Fundraising society of the year 2018, and in the same year their project leader, Charlotte Auty, won both volunteer and project leader of the year. Whilst having only been founded in 2015, this society has already proved its value and its numbers are on the rise.
Medical students interested in volunteering with them can be added to their mailing list at [email protected], and can visit their website manchesteroutreachmedics.com. The mailing list keeps you up to date with every event they run and how to volunteer. This is a truly worthwhile society to get involved with and one that can make a real difference in our student community.