Education news

School pupils quiz doctors about careers in medicine

Pupils from St Malachy's College Belfast learn about medicine at BMA's schools' engagement event

School children have been quizzing doctors and students about careers in medicine.

Budding medics attended the British Medical Association's (BMA) Schools' Engagement event in Belfast, part of a five-day long gathering of BMA members.

The BMA's Widening Participation in Medicine programme is aimed at encouraging people from the greatest possible social and economic backgrounds to consider a career in the profession.

The initiative is linked to a report issued by the BMA in 2015 - The Right Mix - which found only four per cent of medical students in Britain and Northern Ireland came from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

A separate study published this year by the University of Dundee found that Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion of medical students from the least affluent backgrounds in the UK.

It found that among English students, 38 per cent came from the most affluent 20 per cent of postcodes, compared with 54 per cent of those in Scotland, 55 from Wales and 51 in Northern Ireland.

In England, 8.7 per cent of medical students were from the poorest 20 per cent by postcode, against 4.3 in Scotland, 6.5 in Wales and 3.2 in Northern Ireland.

More than 90 school pupils part in interactive mentoring sessions where they quizzed qualified doctors and medical students about why and how they entered the profession.

Pupils were also offered insights into the different medical specialties and given the opportunity to experience some simple clinical techniques, including resuscitation or how to use a stethoscope.

Molly Kerr, chair of BMA Northern Ireland's Medical Students' Committee, said she was heartened to see so many pupils from a wide range of secondary, comprehensive and grammar schools with a genuine interest in learning about how to get into medicine.

"It's important to dispel the myth that only people from more affluent backgrounds can apply for a medical degree. It's open to anyone from any area of Northern Ireland with the right grades and dedication to learn," she said.

BMA president Sir Al Aynsley-Green said: "It's vital that the medical workforce reflects the background of all the patients we look after which is why initiatives like the schools engagement event are an important part of BMA's efforts to engage with prospective medical students from all socio-economic backgrounds, particularly in Northern Ireland.

"BMA's The Right Mix Report'published last year found that 20 per cent of secondary schools in the UK provide 80 per cent of all applicants to medicine and that only 4 per cent of UK medical students came from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. This cannot go on. As the largest representative body for doctors in the UK it is imperative on the BMA to work to reverse these stats."

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