Inspiring the next generation of medical students and making sure all young people who are interested in pursuing medicine have the opportunity are some of our top priorities.

Kate Bartlett is the Developing Talent Lead in Medicine and works with a number of different departments to provide experiences and access to medicine so pupils can make informed decisions about their future.

Medically Speaking talks to Kate about her work.

Please tell us about your role as Developing Talent Lead – what does that include?

The role as Developing Talent Lead is a relatively new one but covers so many exciting projects across the LifeLab Team and Widening Participation and Social Mobility Team. Primarily I lead on outreach activities for young, often disadvantaged (widening participation) people interested in a career in Medicine.

Kate Bartlett

What projects are you working on?

The three main projects are the Widening Access to Medicine taster course for Year 12 pupils, live Virtual Work Experience with colleagues at University Hospital Southampton for Year 12 to 13 students and Experience Medicine with Lifelab, the Year 9 to 11 Summer School.

The events happen across the year, which makes my job really interesting and always busy! Virtual Work Experience (VWEX) happens during the October half term, Christmas holidays, February half term and summer holidays; the Widening Access to Medicine take places during the Easter holidays and the LifeLab Summer School is at the beginning of the summer holidays.

I am involved in all aspects from start to finish including programme planning, promoting it to and selecting attendees, recruiting and training student ambassadors, liaising with local schools and colleges, delivering the live events, to finally evaluating and monitoring where the attendees come from and where they end up going.

As a part time member of staff with a young family you must be really organised with your time.

Who do you work with? How long have you been at UoS?

I have been working at the University of Southampton since 2004. I started as the staff Volunteering Officer but then moved into outreach, firstly working on the Aimhigher Project, then the Learn with US project, and after a short break I joined the LifeLab team. Now I am a bridge between the two departments which means I get to work with some incredible people.

The LifeLab team are fantastic and deliver some incredible outreach work and research on health and wellbeing. I am responsible for the activities which nurture the curiosity of the students coming in to LifeLab. We have a bank of incredible scientists who are our “Meet the Scientists”. We couldn’t do the work without them and are always looking for enthusiastic researchers interested in working with young people. We also have a youth panel who help negotiate what it is young people are passionate about and steer our activities in the right direction.

The Access Team works with an amazing amount of schools, colleges and disadvantaged young people on a plethora of activities and I work closing with the Faculty of Medicine in particular the BM6 team.

As well as this I work collaboratively with the University Hospital Southampton Careers Development Team, Consultants, and other clinical staff and scientists who are passionate about encouraging the new wave of scientists and doctors. I can also be called to support Teacher Conferences, interviewing for the Youth Panel, LifeLab Days, visits into school or other events which need team support! My days are never boring!

How many have you done and how many students are involved? What are their backgrounds?

This a really hard question to answer. Over my career I have seen thousands and thousands of students. I would regularly deliver assemblies to local schools on the benefits of going to university. Traveling all over Hampshire and the IOW, I was often spotted by young people in the shop as the “Aimhigher Lady!”

Now our target widening participation students can include first generation students to high education, students on free school meals or parents who are receiving some kind of benefit. Perhaps their post code is within the lowest 20% of deprivation, or they are a young person in care or a young carer. I work with people from lots of different backgrounds, for example the virtual work experience project has 30 places, and 15 of these are ring fenced for the widening participation students. Also, the LifeLab Summer School have 10 places which are bursary places only.

In a year I usually see 120 VWEX students, 30 widening access to medicine students and 40 LifeLab Summer School students.

Kate taking part in a student experience event

How successful are the events?

Over the years, the events have been really successful with lots of positive feedback from the students who take part. I often ask the students to send me a reflection paragraph about what they have experienced and how it has changed them. I love reading these and it definitely makes the stressful days’ worth it!

For me what I love is when you see one of your attendees enrolled as an undergraduate at the university. You feel so proud for them and what they have overcome.

What benefits/opportunities to they present students?

The projects I lead on have huge benefits to young people. It opens their eyes to the realities of medicine through talking to clinicians, researchers, consultants and medical students. They hear talks from other allied health professions and learn about roles they didn’t even know existed. They get to practice clinical skills. They have talks from admissions teams and get to ask questions about the process in applying to university and UCAT. All this information aids them in their decision on whether medicine is the right course for them and gives them experiences to reflect on during any forthcoming interviews.

The virtual work experience is live, which is very unusual as most are pre-recorded, but this gives the attendees the chance to see first hand the relationship between patient/doctor and they get their questions answered instantly. We are very proud of this.

Why is it important to give year 12s experience before they make decisions about higher education?

This is so important as young people need to be fully informed before they make the decision to go to university or take a gap year or apply to medicine or not. I am just as happy when a young person says to me, they have discovered medicine is definitely not for them!

What benefits do they give the faculty?

The benefits for the faculty are varied. As well as having motivated young people who are passionate about medicine from a variety of backgrounds, I also work with some incredible medical student ambassadors who mentor and teach the young people, who in turn learn new skills themselves along the way.

As a faculty we have our civic responsibility and supporting our local community and promoting the benefits of education.

How rewarding is it for you as the Developing Talent Lead to be involved in this work?

I love it. I think the fact I have been working in this area of work for 19 years speaks volumes. For me, knowing you have helped inspire a young person to believe in themselves, give it a go, try hard to get the grades makes me feel so proud of them. The team I work with are incredible. Some of the best people you could meet.

Kate with a prospective medical student
Inspiring the doctors of the future

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