I vividly remember how it all began. I was a bright eyed young girl, optimistic about my future in Medicine. It was results day and my dreams had just been made a reality. After all that I had been through, with teachers underestimating my ability, impostor syndrome and lacking clinical work experience; I got into medical school. It felt surreal at the time but as the excitement kicked in, I set up a Wordpress blog and called it ‘The Melanin Medic’. I was determined to write about my Medicine application journey, life as a medical student and hopefully as a doctor.
At the end of August 2017, I wrote my first article the Summer before I started Medical school, titled ‘Getting into Medical School’. I didn’t tell anyone about it as I started my new life as a medical student. I guess you can say that the article sat there gathering dust for almost a whole year, until one day while studying with friends during exam season I shared the idea with them. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared for their response, their encouragement, their belief in me and my idea. It really was the push that I needed to move beyond fear and take a step into the unknown. Before I knew it, one of my friends had created our first logo! Once she shared it with me, I knew it was time to be intentional about sharing ‘the Melanin Medic’ with the world. But at that moment I knew it was bigger than just me and my story. Subsequently, ‘Melanin Medics’ was born.
Whilst I knew that other people would definitely be able to relate to the changes I had faced during my medicine application journey, I realised that it was time to create a space for the voices and experiences of black medical students and doctors to be heard.
A space where the younger generation could find inspiration and learn from those only steps ahead of them. A space to connect people with others who shared similar experiences. A space to equip people to fulfil their career aspirations and achieve their full potential. A space to celebrate our unique cultural identity. I had one goal when I first started, to make things better for the next generation of black medical students and doctors and now at the 5 year mark, I think I can say that we have done that.
Our journey over the last 5 years has looked like, [Olamide] writing weekly blog posts for the first 10 months and operating as a team of 1. When I had the idea to review personal statements for medical school applicants for free, I reviewed 30 personal statements within a 2 week window with a 24-48 hour turnaround. Looking back now, I wonder how I managed to do this but certainly do not regret it at all. After 10 months, I welcomed our first team; a group of 16 passionate medical students and doctors from across the UK volunteering their time to achieve our collective vision. By April 2018, we launched our first mentoring programme, pairing 38 black African and Caribbean aspiring medics with mentors supporting them with their Medicine application and the rest was history.
Over the last 5 years, we have held 33 events both in-person and virtually reaching 2376 attendees from across the UK and around the world. We have supported the next generation of black medical students with their Medicine applications, through free personal statement reviews, mock interview preparation, admission tests preparation resources and bursaries, school outreach and mentoring. We have helped hundreds of students to successfully gain a place at medical school and have helped even more medical students and doctors navigate their careers. We have delivered our Allyship & Advocacy Workshops to 2413 medical students, doctors and healthcare professionals across the UK. We have worked with a number of organisations including; the General Medical Council, British Medical Association, Royal College of Surgeons, National Institute of Health and Care Research, NHS England, Healthcare Leadership Academy and more, to advocate and champion the voices of black medical students and doctors.
I guess the next question to answer is “Have things changed for the black aspiring medical student, current medical student and doctor?” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as straight forward as I would have hoped. The truth is, the problems still exist. Black students make up the lowest proportion of applicants in standard and graduate entry medical school degrees. However, we have seen a year on year increase in the number of successful medical school applicants from Black African and Caribbean backgrounds.
Racism in medicine is still a problem, affecting exam outcomes in medical school and specialty training, career progression, representation in senior leadership, experiences of bullying and harassment on medical placements and in the workplace.
But the impact of racism in medicine goes much deeper, it affects the confidence, perceptions of capability, identity and sense of belonging for many individuals.
We still have a long way to go to tackle racism in medicine and undo some of the harms inflicted as a result, but we are hopeful that we, as an organisation can contribute to the solution, just as we have done, in some way.
Now at this juncture, I encourage you to play your part to be part of the solution. We need your ongoing support. Diversity in medicine is not a destination, nor is it a tick box activity. We desire for diversity to be an integral part of the medical profession. Our mission is to promote diversity in medicine, widen aspirations and aid career progression for the present and future Black African and Caribbean doctor. Our approach is simple, to support the individual to get in (access), get through (attainment) and get up (advancement), while influencing their environment.
In order to fulfil our mission, we have set 5 strategic priorities to be focused on over the next 5 years:
Securing the talent pipeline of future black doctors through early intervention and opportunity
Increasing the member voice by creating greater opportunities for community involvement
Promoting shared learning and increasing collaboration
Establishing paths and ladders for black medical student and doctors to support career progression in medical training and clinical academia
Becoming a strong charity to better champion the needs of our community
We have reached and supported 9150 people across all our services. This is an incredible accomplishment! One thing is certain, this could not have been achieved without the incredible support of community. For every team member, volunteer, every event speaker, every participant, every attendee, every donor, every sponsor, every partnering organisation, every grant funder and every supported, we are immensely grateful.
We hope that you can continue to support us as we continue on our journey.
On behalf of the Melanin Medics Team,
Dr Olamide Dada MBBCh FInstLM