Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Tackling Inequalities in Medicine

Tackling inequalities in medicine, with our Women of the Future nominee, Ramat Ayoola

Our second nominee for Women of the Future Awards this year for Warwick Medical School (WMS), was Ramat Ayoola, for the Community Spirits category, nominated by her tutor Dr Anne-Marie Chilton.

Ramat is a busy final year medical student but has still found time to make a significant contribution to tackling health inequalities amongst vulnerable and marginalised groups. She has also been instrumental in developing and establishing networks to support black and ethnic minority medical students to thrive in their studies and future careers.

She first became involved in addressing inequality issues when studying for her undergraduate degree elsewhere where she became an equality and diversity officer. She was also involved with a parliamentary group looking at teaching in areas such as sickle cell which at the time was the fastest growing genetic condition in the UK. She said, “I found the whole process fascinating, and it sparked an interest in health inequalities.”

At Warwick, Ramat started working with tutor Anne-Marie and a group of fellow students to set up a culturally compassionate food bank programme for refugees and asylum seekers in Coventry. At the time, she had just returned from the migrant camps in Calais having volunteered with the Refugee Community Kitchen and was keen to carry on her work on home turf. She wanted to raise awareness amongst her fellow students and inspire others to get involved with humanitarian medicine.

Ramat then established Student Action for Refugee group (STAR) at Warwick, out of which came a volunteering group teaching monthly first aid and first aid awareness sessions to refugees and the migrant community of Coventry. The group also helped refugees with health passports, how to register with a local GP and dispelled commonly held health myths.

By 2021, Ramat was both President of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Network Group and Chair of the Awarding Gap Group at WMS and collaborated with Athena SWAN to put on a networking event for BME students. It had previously been identified that reasons for the awarding gap in medicine included the lack of visible black and ethnic minority role models and isolation so hoped the event would help address that. Eventually the event grew to become the Midlands Racial Equality in Medicine Conference as the interest expanded to students from other universities, and Keele and Leicester universities came on board as partners.

Ramat applied for a grant from the Warwick International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA) and used the money to fund a project to encourage BME students to become involved in research. With £1000, the successful student could use the grant to fund research activity of their choice with a focus on racial equality.

The Midlands Racial Equality in Medicine Network was then born. Ramat said “We knew we didn’t just want to do one conference so decided to do it annually and rotate it around the institutions that were involved. One of the key principles was to pay students for their time because we understood that often BME students come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and that participation could become a barrier. There are eight partner institutions so getting them to buy into this principle is a bit of a challenge.”

She continued, “Midlands Innovation has been able to support and also asked us to get involved with the Health Inequalities Policy Commission to feed into a national commission on health inequalities which was completed at the end of September. Being involved with this area of work was fascinating and something I would be interested in going into in the future.”

Following graduation, Ramat is hoping to work in London and wants to establish a similar network there with a view to going national in five years. “Having worked in this area for a while it seems a lot of institutions are all doing the work but not talking to each other. I want us to be seen as industry leaders and share our knowledge and experience. We are already working with the GMC which is great. I know that seems very ambitious, but it is important to show that it is not just a problem at Warwick, or the Midlands, it is a UK issue.”

In terms of medical specialty interest going forward she would like to work in obstetrics and gynaecology. She said “It is an area where there are still health inequalities and maternal mortality for black and ethnic minority mothers is still an issue. Having someone from a similar background working in that area will enable me to advocate for patients. I would like to work for WHO or Doctors without Borders eventually.”

Anne-Marie Chilton who nominated Ramat said, “I am incredibly proud of the work that Ramat has done. She has inspired her fellow students and galvanised them to develop important networks and initiatives. I have no doubt that, with her drive and enthusiasm, she will continue to make a significant impact in the area of health inequality in medicine, no matter where her career takes her.”