Current medical and dental students pulled out all the stops to deliver a virtual Peninsula Pathways programme this summer for young people considering studying a healthcare subject at university.
Peninsula Pathways is part of the Faculty of Health’s outreach activity, and has been running for more than 10 years. When the coronavirus struck, it quickly became apparent that the normal comprehensive programme of activities, workshops and summer work experience provided by Student Ambassadors and staff to potential applicants would not be possible this year. Instead of cancelling, the Widening Participation team, along with WAMS (Widening Access to Medical School) and WADS (Widening Access to Dental School) Student Ambassadors, decided to adapt by planning and delivering the sessions online.
This not only ensured that the 200 students from local schools and colleges who had already registered did not miss out, but also enabled the team to reach over 1000 students nationally.
Each year WAMS and WADS Student Ambassadors facilitate Peninsula Pathways workshops designed to help those considering careers in healthcare, with the aim of targeting and supporting the most able students from the groups least likely to go to university.
The Peninula Pathways activities include: various workshops such as UCAT (the clinical aptitude test used in the selection process by the majority of UK medical and dental schools) and mock interviews; work experience programmes for medicine, dentistry and biomedical sciences; and an established e-mentoring programme where potential applicants are matched with a current medical, dental or biomedical science student. As well as delivering these sessions online, biomedical sciences students helped academic staff run a two-day virtual Biomedical Sciences Experience Day.
Muniza Waseem, Kat Paton, Sumbel Khan and Ifrah Rahman (WAMS and WADS Student Ambassadors, pictured below from left to right) planned and converted the normal UCAT in-house workshops to eight weeks of virtual practice sessions over the summer. Sumbel, speaking on behalf of the Ambassadors said:
“These workshops are to help aspiring medics and dentists become familiar with the layout of the UCAT and develop their confidence to sit the exam. We have enjoyed being able to reach out to students from all over the country and different backgrounds, the feedback has been really positive and definitely inspires us to do even more.”
A parent whose daughter benefited from the virtual work experience sessions said:
“Thank you so much. Before this Daisy had mentioned being a doctor, but her confidence got in the way and she thought she couldn’t do it! After a week with you guys she is now very enthusiastic about being a doctor and I have noticed a difference in her overall confidence.
“Daisy loved the talk from Dr Pascoe, and the Student Ambassadors and the interviews gave her an insight into the kinds of questions she may be asked, so all weekend she has been planning answers! Please pass on my thanks to the amazing Student Ambassadors for instilling so much confidence and self-belief into Daisy – I hope it lasts!”
A student who attended the dental summer work experience programme added:
“The practical activities were extremely interesting, they were a good insight into what you would do as a dental professional. I feel I have gained a greater insight into dentistry and life as a dental student. The information given was quite different to a typical webinar, and I think I have a greater understanding of the roles that dentists play.”
One of the students attending the biomedical sciences work experience programme said:
“I really enjoyed the programme and the different lecturers that came to talk were very interesting and interactive with students. After the virtual work experience I would say that I am thinking of having a career in Biomedical Sciences. That is because of the way the virtual experience was run by the different lecturers making you feel that you are going to gain a lot by doing a biomedical science degree in university.”
Julie Monk, Faculty of Health Widening Participation Officer added:
“With the COVID-19 situation we decided in the very early stages of lockdown to move to virtual delivery, to enable us to continue supporting our Peninsula Pathways students through this very difficult time. Going virtual has also enabled us to extend our invitation to potential students from social and/or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds from outside of Devon and Cornwall.
“Our Student Ambassadors did a fantastic job of rising to the challenge and thanks to all their hard work in planning and delivering these workshops, very many young people have received the same level of support and opportunity as in previous years.”
As part of the Peninsula Pathways to the Healthcare Professions, we offer further support and guidance to potential students considering a career in medicine or dentistry from backgrounds which are under-represented in higher education through various engagement in activities and events.
Students are recruited from schools and colleges in the South West of England region.
Through our widening participation activity we raise awareness, aspiration and achievement; supporting otherwise under-represented groups to successfully progress to higher education.