Dr Brian Wang, a foundation year 1 doctor and RCP Student and Foundation Doctor Network representative for London, credits much of his professional development and achievements to the incredible mentors he had growing up. In this piece he explains why that very experience led him to set up a mentoring initiative for young people considering a career in medicine.
I moved to the UK at the age of six with my mother, father and sister and we lived in council housing around south-east London for the first few years. I struggled to keep up with the other students, and I needed support from an assistant teacher to help me from falling too far behind.
I share this not because I am looking for anyone’s pity, but because I want to show the power of mentorship.
My mentors got me to where I am today, and they’ve inspired me to mentor others.
With support from my mentors, who invested their time in a small child with big dreams, I built the confidence to apply to medical school. Today, at the age of 27, I can proudly say that I’m now a medical doctor and have a PhD. However, I cannot say that I did this alone. I attribute all my success to the support I received from my family and mentors. My mentors got me to where I am today, and they’ve inspired me to mentor others.
The figures are striking. In the UK, only 4% of doctors come from working class backgrounds, even though up to 40% of the population identify as being working class.
60% of doctors in the UK were educated at a private school, despite the fact that only 7% of children in the general population attend a private school. That’s a higher proportion of privately educated individuals in medicine than in journalism, law, and even politics – professions that I typically associated with being reserved for the privately educated.
The NHS is built on the belief that healthcare should be available to all at the point of delivery. However, access to healthcare as a profession is far from equal. When I investigated further, I found that 80% of successful applicants into medicine came from only 20% of schools in the UK – with 50% of schools never having produced a successful applicant.
I decided that I wanted to change to this. Inspired by the support I received from my mentors, I decided to set up a mentorship programme for disadvantaged children who hoped to apply for a career in healthcare. I called this programme In2MedSchool.
Since its inception in the summer of 2020, over 2,000 medical students and doctors have signed up as volunteers on our mentorship programme. This is testament to the kind hearts of all our volunteers, who are all current or future medical professionals already so busy with their own studies, clinical responsibilities or other endeavours.
Our students are from a variety of backgrounds. Our selection criteria includes, but is not limited to, children who are from ethnic minority backgrounds, on free school meals, or have parents in unskilled work. We also have children who identify as refugees, young carers or are estranged from their parents.
Despite our broad selection criteria, the children on our mentorship programme all have one thing in common – they’re all far less likely to achieve their dreams of entering higher education for reasons beyond their control.
We also run free events discussing topics that are less commonly spoken about, including looking after your mental health at university, and what it is like to move away from home for the first time.
As we start to get the pandemic under control, our Ambassadors Programme team is also working to support children who are seeking work experience opportunities.
The success of In2MedSchool is down to the passion of our volunteers – everyone involved has a drive to create positive change in our healthcare system. They all see the value of mentorship.
I believe that we are the product of everything that has come before us. It’s our responsibility to pass on our experience and our knowledge to those who come after us.
In a world where you can be anything ... please consider being a mentor.