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Sixthformer sets up online forum to inspire future medics

An aspiring medic from Barrow Sixth Form College has set up a forum to allow like-minded students to make contacts in medicine and get a valuable insight into their chosen career.

Ambitious A Level student Toby Wilson started Furness Future Medics Forum to overcome the boundaries of work experience in a pandemic and help him and other students to get a head start in their career in medicine.

Toby, who is studying biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics at the Rating Lane campus and is part of the Honours programme for top achieving students, was inspired to set up the forum after participating in some online work experience and attending a conference.

“During the conference, we were advised that medical schools were looking for students to have spoken to healthcare professionals to gain an insight into a career in medicine before applying,” he said. “During this year, it has not been possible to undertake work experience or shadowing of doctors in the normal way due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I decided to set up the Furness Future Medics Forum.

“I knew that for people like myself, who don’t have family contacts, it’s not always that easy to make connections with other medics.

“In developing this group, I decided that I would try to find doctors, healthcare professionals and students who have come from the local area to talk about their journey into medicine and pass on any advice they have gained along the way to the students at Barrow Sixth Form who are interested in studying medicine.”

Toby, who joined Barrow Sixth Form from St Bernard’s, officially launched the forum late last year and welcomed his first guest speaker in January. Former Sixth Form student Jacob McSweeney, who is now in his third year studying medicine at Lancaster University, shared his experience of applying for medical school via Microsoft Teams.

Speaking during National Careers Week Toby said: “Jacob’s talk helped us understand what it is really like to apply to medical school. There was a larger audience than I thought there would be, with ten first-year college students joining us on the Teams meeting. The feedback was really positive.”

After the success of the first event, the Furness Future Medics Forum hosted another online talk last month with trainee GP Hannah Kolbe, who also studied at Barrow Sixth Form College.

Toby is currently planning another talk for this month and exploring speakers from other healthcare roles, including an advanced nurse practitioner and a doctor. He is planning to apply to study at the University of Cambridge and Lancaster University.

“I have been really pleased with how the group has gone so far and have been given other contacts along the way, so I hope to get more healthcare professionals involved,” he said. “I hope to keep the group going this year and then I would like for a new first-year student to take over in the next academic year.

“I want to encourage students from this area and inform them that becoming a doctor is a realistic prospect, where previously people may have been put off due to stereotypes associated with the profession.”

Assistant Head of Sixth Form Helen Rastelli said: “Medical degree courses are highly competitive. We know we have students who have the academic talent to achieve places but they might lack the confidence to apply. We think Toby’s student-led approach bringing everyone together will give them extra motivation to apply for degree courses and support each other’s ambitions, a quality that is valuable throughout life. He has demonstrated real vision and a selfless can-do attitude and we could not be more impressed by him.”

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