A Medicine student at the University of Exeter has teamed up with two clinicians to launch an online seminar series which has attracted more than 10,000 students from across the UK – and has already joined forces with Peter Andre.
Year 3 student Muntasha Quddus is involved in SMILE - Sustaining Medical Education in a Lockdown Environment, supported by the University of Exeter. Together with registrars John Pascoe, from the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, and Paul Foster, from Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, they are hosting daily seminars on Zoom. The series brings in daily guest speakers to provide additional content, to supplement the extensive teaching resources that medical schools have put online amid COVID-19 restrictions. The lectures aim to help replace some of the face-to-face interaction with NHS clinicians that students usually experience while on placement.
After starting 5 weeks ago, SMILE now has almost 10,000 students registered to its Facebook page. Online lectures are attracting attendees from prestigious universities across the country, including Oxford and Cambridge and the team recently joined forces with singer Peter Andre to raise more than £2,000 for his charity Health Improvement Project Zanzibar, to fund PPE and other valuable resources in the region.
Muntasha said: “Medical schools have put a lot of content online, but students are keen to experience even more contact with clinicians, as they would normally have been on placement on wards and in GP practises. We felt something needed to be done to support them and medical schools to continue their learning. Our lectures are live and free. We have managed to achieve this since the beginning of lockdown thanks to a huge variety of doctors keen to give lectures. The technology means students are able to have interactive sessions with the presenters, so it’s a rewarding experience for both sides.”
SMILE started with a capacity of 1,000 participants on Zoom, and recently expanded to 3,000. The initiative has been supported with funding from Momus Safety, a human factors company run by South West healthcare professionals aiming to improve patient safety, enhance clinical practice and encourage personal development.
SMILE president John Pascoe, Urology Fellow at Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, said: "SMILE started as me teaching 45 South West students from my living room with a hope to add some structure to the student’s day during the times of Covid-19. This has quickly evolved into an organisation of doctors from across the country giving up their time to deliver high quality daily lectures. We now reach up to a 1,000 students a day. I speak for all of the SMILE team when I say we are incredibly grateful for the support we have received and hope we can offer continued support to students at this challenging time."
Professor Ian Fussell, Associate Dean of Education at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “I’m delighted that the University has been able to support SMILE. We’re really proud of how our staff and students have adapted to the challenges of sustaining a high quality medical education during this difficult period. We’re now delivering outstanding content online and supporting students virtually. It’s incredibly rewarding to see our students showing qualities of innovation and leadership to share knowledge and bring together students nationwide too.”
Students have told the team how much they appreciate the lectures.
Cristina Duesa, of the University of Exeter, said: "I felt that routine has been hard to maintain during lockdown but thanks to the huge effort from the SMILE team I've kept up with my medical studies and remained motivated throughout these unexpected circumstances. Bringing interactive and stimulating lectures delivered by passionate teachers everyday, at 11am!"
Akash Dhillon, medical student at Southampton Medical School, said: "Thank you so much for the coordinating this effort- it really is much appreciated. I feel that even if I had been on placement, some of these more specialist topics would not have been taught in a way that they are via the SMILE platform."
To find out more about SMILE, visit the Facebook page SMILE: Sustaining Medical education In a Lockdown Environment, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org