It has taken 100 years for theMedical Women’s Federationto return home to Edinburgh, the city where Jex-Blake and the Edinburgh Seven first bravely battled for women to have the right to attend university and study medicine. Fortunately, the trend caught on - over 600 women are currently on the MBChB programme at Edinburgh Medical School and this year saw the founding of our first student-led MWF committee.
Eager and enthusiastic, the committee spans all six year groups and has brought together likeminded women who are keen to represent the views and ideals of Edinburgh’s medics and promote equality and inclusivity on campus.
We already have a full timetable of events planned for the coming year and are excited to partner with and work alongside other prominent student groups such as Edinburgh University Feminist Society, Edinburgh University Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society and another innovative new team, Edinburgh University Medical Ethics and Humanities Society. Through these interdisciplinary collaborations, we hope to raise the profile of the MWF and reach out to the greatest number of students possible, whilst hosting a larger number of events on campus than each group would be able to individually.
Our first event of the year was an overriding success – a lecture on the benefits and challenges of vaccination and screening for cervical cancer, delivered by Edinburgh-based research fellow, Dr Ramya Bhatia and hosted by MWF, EUOGS and MedAid. Her narrative about her time spent in Malawi was thought-provoking and emotive and demonstrated to her captive audience the demanding and rewarding career female medics can experience abroad. Coming up later this year, we hope to present equally engaging topics for discussion such as FGM, image positivity and work-life balance in clinical practice.
We want our society to be a forum for celebration as well as discussion and we aim to recognise the achievements and progress of women in medicine through an evening of poster presentations on notable female medics throughout history near the end of the academic year. We wish to use this as an opportunity to reflect on the contributions they, and also, we, have made to the medical community at Edinburgh and further afield. To accompany this event, each week a committee member will share through Facebook and our new Instagram account, a short profile entitled ‘Woman of the Week’, about someone who has inspired them during their medical career. We hope this will help introduce more role models to our followers whilst familiarising students with our committee and maintaining an active presence on social media.
As on-going projects, we responded to the wish for current medical students to have more contact with current medical professionals for inspiration, advice and encouragement. As such, we are in the process of formalising MWF’s student-doctor buddying scheme, whereby on request students are paired with female physicians who have graciously volunteered to support these promising future doctors. In February, we plan to bring together students and doctors from a range of specialities in a Speed Dating event, to provide an insight into a plethora of careers where women can thrive and hopefully encourage current students to pursue a speciality they had not previously considered.
We hope MWF at Edinburgh will be for everyone, by pioneering progression and forward-thinking. As we gain publicity and following, we hope to go forward to create a legacy for women at Edinburgh Medical School and to challenge every assumption and stereotype we encounter along the way.
Rebecca Murphy Lonergan
Rebecca Murphy Lonergan is a medical student at the Edinburgh University Medical School and a founding member of the MWF student committee.