On Saturday 28th November 2020, Birmingham Widening Access to Medical Sciences (BWAMS) society hosted their annual Dr.eam Junior Conference for Year 12 students interested in pursuing a career in Medicine. The virtual event, held on Zoom Webinar, was an overwhelming success, with 848 attendees and 25 incredible speakers delivering a range of inspiring talks, workshops and panels.
The Dr.eam Junior Conference is part of BWAMS’ flagship series of free conferences, which provide the opportunity for state school students to gain an insight into Medicine and healthcare careers.
As conference chair this year, I set about planning the conference back in August 2020. Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly became evident that Dr.eam Junior would look a little different this year. Consequently, myself and my conference team set about moving the conference online for the first time since its creation two
years ago. In addition, we opened up the conference beyond Birmingham, to state school students across the UK.
Though a virtual, larger conference brought along its fair share of unique challenges, moving a medicine admissions conference of this nature online opened up a world of possibilities for our potential outreach to students, particularly those from Widening Participation (WP) backgrounds. Even before the impact of COVID-19, students from WP backgrounds were increasingly isolated in ‘cold spots’ (1) with no outreach opportunities. Our team identified that previous recommendations by the MSC for greater digital outreach were now a necessity (2) and that this could further the outreach a Widening Access society like ourselves could achieve.
The conference was a free, one-day event, hosted on Zoom Webinar, running from 9am to 4:30pm. The day comprised of a morning of talks and panels, followed by an afternoon of workshops and further panels. An incredible range of 25 doctors and medical students from across the UK spoke at the conference, sharing inspiring stories and delivering informative sessions for attending Year 12 students. For a full Conference schedule, including our speakers, please see below.
We were overwhelmed and humbled by the attendance and engagement from conference attendees – opening up the conference to students across the UK led to over a 10x increase in registrations seen in 2019! Maximum concurrent viewing reached 720 students, with an astounding 1015 answered questions by our conference team and 27 BWAMS volunteers.
Most importantly, we have received heart-warming feedback from attendees sharing the impact Dr.eam Junior has had for them on a personal level. 98% of students (843) said they would recommend the event to others, serving as a huge encouragement for the future of online WP initiatives.
Here are a few comments left by students (to make you smile!):
“The event exceeded all my expectations and it has been fundamental for me to understand better the dynamics my future is based on”
“It was super enjoyable and very interactive, it was definitely worth attending the whole day since all the information was really useful and I loved it!!”
“You have provided a real insight into the flexibility and huge scope of opportunities of medicine. I was doubting whether medicine was for me with all the anxieties about whether I could do it, and now I am 100% set on applying to medicine.”
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to everyone who was involved in Dr.eam Junior this year. Thank you to all students who attended the event and actively engaged throughout the day. Thank you to all the BWAMS volunteers who helped the smooth running of the Webinar. Thank you to all our speakers who gave up their time to share their insight and knowledge, thank you to Dr Clare Ray and Tom Syder for their continue support. Thank you to my amazing conference team, Halimah Khalil, Alya Khashaba, Kiran Kaur and Gar Mun Lau, who worked hard over the past few months to make Dr.eam Junior the success it was!
Words: Louise Griffin