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MB ChB finalist recognised at Buckingham Palace

Thomas and Jean-Pierre at Buckingham PalaceWarwick MB ChB finalist Thomas Dale MacLaine recently attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his services to Higher Education. We caught up with him to find out more about the experience and why he was recognised.

Congratulations on being recognised for your work! Can you tell us a bit more about why you were invited to Buckingham Palace?

I’m not actually sure why I was invited! Someone nominated me to the Department for Education, for my services to Higher Education. It is likely one of two things though - the
Beacon Internships or the Patient Connect service that I’ve been involved in. I just hope the person who nominated me knows how grateful I am for the opportunity to attend the garden party!

What are the Beacon Internships you’ve set up?

The Beacon Internships are a suite of paid research internships for under-represented communities, aiming to give students the opportunities to develop research skills and provide pathways to publications. The internships are in healthcare technologies and healthcare innovation and cover these four categories: Ethnic Minority - for all ethnic minority communities; Pride – for the LGBTQAI+ community; Gender - for all under-represented genders, such as female-identifying, non-binary and transgender; and Neurodivergent - for all neurodiverse communities.

And can you tell us about Patient Connect?

Patient Connect is a virtual visiting service that was designed and delivered by myself and another Warwick MB ChB student (now graduate) Jean-Pierre Laake, in light of the pandemic restricting patients and loved ones from connecting when in hospital. The project involved distributing tablets across all wards in University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) and teaching patients and staff how to use them.

The project had a great response. A group of staff and patients ranked the service 10/10 for quality of the service, 9/10 for the quality of the calls and 9/10 for the availability of the tablets. Whilst staff wanted a little bit more training on how to use tablets to connect with loved ones and patients reported they wished the service had more tablets, the hospital embedded our service almost immediately due to its success. It is now a sustainable service within the hospital and we are delighted to see it is doing well.

What do you feel you’ve gained by working on these projects?

Projects like this are always incredible to work on. I come from a research background and have developed a few quality improvement projects/ services before and I don’t think I’ll stop. There is such a personal sense of achievement when you know the work you have done has made a substantially positive difference to someone’s experiences. I know the Beacon Internships I work to deliver with fellow finalist Charlotte Simms are going from strength to strength, and we are thrilled about the possibility of these expanding to support more under-represented students.

What was your day like at Buckingham Palace?

Buckingham Palace was brilliant! The palace was surrounded by works done in preparation for the Queen’s Jubilee. We were allowed to invite a plus one, so after meeting a friend we travelled to the palace - of course, accruing many second looks whilst wearing formal clothes on the tube! We bumped into a number of people on the way, but most people attending wished to discuss the royals in attendance. The Queen was reported not to be attending, and it was rumoured Charles was to attend in her place, however on the day we had William and Kate join. We were unable to meet them ourselves as only select people were chosen to break through the columns of Beefeaters to talk with them.

Jean-Pierre Laake, who I worked with on Patient Connect, was also there (pictured left) so it was great to be able to catch up with him.

The highlight for me was the garden, which was very impressive and has helped me identify some plants I’m going to try and have in my next garden! After several helpings of their miniature foods, strolling the gardens and enjoying the company, it was time to leave. It was a surreal day, especially given the two brass bands took it in turns to play some extraordinary scores - we had Jurassic Park, Les Miserables, and even It’s Not Unusual by Tom Jones!

You graduate from Warwick next month – where are you heading next?

I move to Dundee in July - the city I found myself during my first degree. I hope to become an academic trauma surgeon, so will make the most of their trauma centre for my training. I have a few big research ideas following my doctorate that I want to come to fruition too, and am currently developing a few grant submissions. This might be a bit keen for such early days in my clinical career, however I don’t think that should stop anyone if they can develop the right supportive team around them and have an academic interest!


Pictured: Warwick MB ChB graduate Jean-Pierre Laake (left) and Thomas Dale MacLaine (right) at Buckingham Palace.