Jane Wilkinson

This is a busy and stressful time for staff and students alike as we are in the midst of the exam period. Last year students sat formative exams and progressed regardless of the outcome. This year the exams are summative, so the stakes are higher. Not only that but only one cohort – year 4 – have been able to sit the exams invigilated on campus. Thank you to all of you who responded to the call to invigilate on the day. All the other written exams have been done online. This places an additional stress on the students, not all of whom are blessed with a quiet study space with a secure internet connection. Despite all the difficulties, most of the exams have been completed and students have either received or are awaiting their results. If anyone had told staff and students what we would have to do to keep the show on the road during a global pandemic, I do not think we would have believed it possible to keep going. Once again staff and students have risen to the challenge, and we have kept the students on track.

We held a virtual open day on Saturday 3 July. We had a group of fantastic student ambassadors and Faculty staff supporting the event which was attended by over 700 hopeful students wishing to study medicine. One of the attendees asked how we had coped during the pandemic. I was heartened to hear one of our students say that Faculty communicated with them transparently throughout, including sharing uncertainty. The student felt that this gave the students confidence that we would navigate our way through the crisis. It is hard to get the balance right between trying to instill confidence but accepting that we do not know what the future holds and will need to remain adaptable. Good lessons for a medical career!

I have been privileged to be a mentee in the reverse mentoring project. I have found my mentor totally inspiring. I was particularly struck during one of our conversations by her reflections on the effect of the pandemic on students forming friendships. She commented that she had made one friend during her first year at medical school, but it had been challenging to establish a wider friendship group due to the restrictions. As restrictions began to lift, she noticed that her peers were not finding it easy to form friendships so late in the academic year. We wondered if this might impact on the ability to work in a group in later years, particularly as there is no doubt in my mind that medicine is a team sport. We will also have students joining us in September who have experienced profound disruption to their education in their last two academic years. We will need to do all we can to ensure that the experience of our students is as good as it can be, as the effects of the pandemic will be ongoing.

Update from Dr Jane Wilkinson, Associate Dean for Education

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