Hello everyone, and welcome to our first Research Blog. Today, we want to address some of your burning questions on the exciting new opportunity that is the VMS Summer Challenge Research Project.

During one of our recent Virtual Medics Society meetings, Dr Funmi Abari delivered a very powerful statement encouraging people with medical aspirations to understand politics and inequality in society.

In this she told us:

“If you are entering medicine… and you want to become a Doctor then you have a very powerful place in society to have people listen to you… to have people be inspired by you. Its really important for all of you to know that you need to be politically clued up, you need to understand the inequalities within healthcare.”

While Dr Abari is from a medical background, this also applies for Vet and Dental students also.

As a Virtual Medics Society, we are committed to helping VMS members to be the best doctors that they can be. Karl Popper once wrote that:

“In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.”  

The death of George Floyd is a catalyst that has opened pandoras box, exposing the issue of racism that exists within our society. As members of that society, but especially as Doctors, Vets and Dentists, it is our responsibility to learn and understand these issues, as this is the first step to our fixing of them, to seeing racism as something not to be tolerated, to our building a better society.

So we have created the Research Project not only as a means for VMS members to put something unique that you have got involved in onto your personal statement, not only to give you a chance to have your work published in a national medical magazine, but to help you to understand the politics of the role you wish to undertake. We hope that as many of you as possible will get involved and we really look forward to reading about what you discover.

We touched on some of the details of what we want you to do for this project in our most recent VMS meeting, but we will go into a little more depth now. We are aiming it at anyone who wants to get involved, but primarily current year 10’s and 11’s. We understand current year 12’s may currently be preoccupied with other concerns such as UCAT, BMAT, UCAS application and so on, and we stress it isn’t compulsory, but that’s not to discourage year 12’s from having a go. It could certainly help to boost your application and your Medic Mentor profile. Your task is to write an article with the title “How has attitude towards race changed in the last century”. It will need to be between 800-1000 words.

From there, we want you to be creative. There is a plethora of different ways to approach the task. Do you want to go into great detail on a specific decade, or would you rather look at an overview of the full century? Do you want to look at the differences in how Doctors treat patients of different races? How patients treat Doctors of different races? How Doctors treat other Doctors, or patients treat other patients? Could you touch on how the attitude towards race compares to other professions? There are so many different ways to look at it, and far more than on this short list we have composed.

We also encourage you to be creative with the facts you use. Try not to just look at facts in journals or other articles. Go out gather some of your own primary data. Put together a questionnaire that you can ask your peers. Look into a case study of a specific person. Conduct an interview with someone. Use facts and statistics from other articles to back up your findings (and make sure you reference the articles you use!). We believe that by going out and discovering these facts for yourself, getting the views of real people, you are for more likely to understand the topic to a greater extent than if you simply read facts from other articles. We have attached a document which provides a template for how you may want to structure your article.

The challenge has now officially been launched, and finished entries will need to be submitted by Sunday the 26th of July. This gives you around a month, which we recognise is quite a short space of time, but we are sure that you can work hard and produce something great in that time. You could already have planned something prior to our announcement in the most recent VMS meeting, but if you spend 2 weeks planning and gathering primary data, and two weeks writing the article, that should stand you in good stead. 1000 words is deceptively short, so you will need to be concise. Your articles must be sent to admin@medicmentor.org .

Once you have submitted your articles, we will select two runners up and one winner. This will be sent to the editors of Mentor, and will hopefully be published in Aftermath, the next edition of the magazine, but will definitely be published in a monthly supplement issue if not. Having your work published is an incredibly exciting opportunity, and something that very few people applying to medical school will have, so it can really make you stand out. There will be certificates for the winners.

We have been very excited about doing this project for a long time, and we’re really excited to see the amazing work you produce. We truly believe there is so much to learn from this, both in terms of how to conduct effective research, a skill that will be invaluable in medical school, and in terms of uncovering the issues of racism and being more socially aware on the path to making a difference. If there are any more questions you have, feel free to use the MedSoc group chat and tag us (Tabitha and Tom). Other than that, it’s over to you.

Good luck!