Many of us will be about to embark on a much needed extended Easter break. We celebrated the submission of the REF return for the University on Tuesday,  I want to personally thank John Holloway who has been working towards this for the last six years leading a class supporting team to craft an excellent submission that we can all feel proud of. Like many people I have been reflecting on the last year of lockdown. It is a relief that in the UK we are inching back towards a more social existence.

Future ways of working: Staff and students have adapted to a different way of working, the acceleration of digital capability allowed us to adapt to the ban on travelling – more flexible future ways of working for all of us means we are likely to travel less (better for the planet) and work more flexibly but most of us will want to engage for at least some of the working week with real rather than digital colleagues. As restrictions on travel and social lives start to ease, we will need to maintain many of the measures shown to reduce transmission of the virus in work places and social venues until we have more clarity about the risk of new, more infectious and potentially vaccine resistant variants.

Community: The Staff and Student Pulse surveys run in December 2020 are now available. In the Faculty, the majority of staff reported feeling confident about using the resources at their disposal, felt supported by their line manager and confident that they could work effectively and efficiently from home. However, staff clearly miss feeling part of a community and struggle to structure their working day to include taking breaks so there is a danger of overworking rather than the opposite. For students, the response rate was poor (8%) and the results were bleak particularly for Medicine. Although most students have been able to continue with some (albeit less often) face to face teaching and have engaged positively with online learning, the absence of community is even more acute. Lack of community and anxiety about the future is echoed in separate feedback from ECRs.

Supporting colleagues: This past year has seen a surge in online wellbeing initiatives aimed at helping each other. Jo Trueman has pulled together a wellbeing guide for the Faculty of Medicine recently circulated and available here. Staff have found regular informal catch up meetings on teams helpful. Noting that anxiety about the future is particularly prevalent amongst younger colleagues, please aim for an appraisal discussion that is supportive, reflects on challenges and achievements over the year and focuses on development needs and smart objectives for 2021. Most of us, even at senior levels, have not formally been trained in line management and most people line manage someone from quite early on in an academic career. Staff Level 4-7 can now access professional, externally provided training as part of the line management development programme. I am signed up for this in May so was pleased to hear from Richard Oreffo recently that it is a high quality, useful course. This opportunity is available for a limited time only, to date less than 10% of FMED staff have booked – please sign up if you can and once committed please make sure you make attendance your top priority.

Supporting students: Although our medical students have been mostly with us in Southampton since the first lockdown ended, they are facing more anxieties and challenges this year, they may benefit from more regular contact with their Personal Academic Tutor (access PAT training here). I appreciate that many of you are doing this already, thank you.

Inclusivity: Over the past year there has been growing awareness of the differential disadvantage to the already disadvantaged that this pandemic has brought across all of society. There have been positive advances over in our institutional approach to Equality Diversity and Inclusion with clearer governance and greater visibility, a regular focus at UEB and faculty boards, and tangible actions institutionally aimed at changing the culture rather than filling in the charter mark forms. I have previously mentioned our highly successful reverse mentoring pilot from FMED, which I am proud to say is now being rolled out more widely across the University. Disadvantage sits disproportionately with ethnic minority groups, if this whole debate has resonated strongly, consider donating an Easter gift to the Cowrie scholarship foundation which is supporting disadvantaged black British students to attend University.

Keeping safe: Brushing up on fire training, first aid and the lone working policy may be relevant given the low density of occupancy of our labs and offices and notes that in addition to the nine H&S e-learning modules, there are four new modules created for the COVID-working environment, worth a look in case you haven’t been on site at all in the last year.

I hope you will be taking plenty of time to rest and recover over the coming week, if you have to work then thank you for doing so and do make sure you also make time to rest when you can. Thank you all as always for your wonderful contributions to our Faculty and for getting through this difficult time together, it is not over yet but I genuinely hope to see many of you in person sometime before the end of 2021.

Professor Diana Eccles
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine

End of term message from the Dean of Medicine

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