Northern Ireland

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Doctors host widening participation in medicine event

FROM LEFT: Consultant anaesthetist and member of BMA Northern Ireland’s consultants committee Peter Maguire; Emma Spence and Nora Vegh, year 11 pupils from Omagh High School; Molly Kerr, fifth year medical student and chair of BMA Northern Ireland’s medical students committee, and; Brian Ojofeitimi, fourth year medical student and member of BMA Northern Ireland’s medical students committee

Pupils from schools across Northern Ireland have taken part in a special BMA event designed to encourage greater diversity in medicine.

More than 100 non-grammar school students this week attended a widening-participation day organised by BMA Northern Ireland. The pupils came from schools that would not traditionally have students going to study medicine.

Hosted by doctors from across a range of specialties, the students who were aged between 13 and 16, were able to ask questions about pursuing a career in medicine as well as get involved in hands-on exercises including taking blood pressure readings, suturing and using dermascopes and microscopes.

Encouraging students from a wider range of backgrounds into medicine has been championed by the BMA for a number of years. The event targeted pupils aged 13 16 years of age in particular to help give them exposure to medicine before they picked subjects for GCSE and A level.

The report, the Right Mix, published by the association in 2015, showed that just 4 per cent of UK medical students came from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

A separate study published in 2016 found that Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion of medical students from the least affluent backgrounds in the UK.

BMA Northern Ireland council chair John D Woods said that he hoped the day would help to inspire more students, who had previously viewed medicine as inaccessible to them, to consider becoming doctors.

He said: ‘We have doctors here today drawn from all backgrounds who are relaying the message to these enthusiastic pupils that they too can have a career in medicine with the right grades and dedication to learn.

‘Now more than ever do we need more young people from all backgrounds entering medicine; the Northern Ireland health service is in the midst of one of the worst workforce crisis in recent memory, with significant staffing gaps across all medical specialties.’

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