Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Medical student making a difference in the community

Laura Whitter is a busy third year medical student who still finds the time to have an exceptionally busy extra-curricular schedule of activities related to health and medicine.

She is currently a trustee for a charity called ‘We are Donors’ who raise awareness of the importance of making a choice about organ and blood donation among young people at school and university. She is the only student on the national committee responsible for co-ordinating 12 groups around the UK and a network of universities including Kings College London, University College London, Bristol, Keele, Newcastle, Sheffield, Cambridge and Oxford.

Laura's involvement began in Bristol when she was an undergraduate at university there, and has evolved from being part of the local group to helping coordinate national charity strategy. “I have always been passionate about organ and blood donation myself and talking to family members about it, so when the opportunity presented itself, I was keen to get involved.

Laura is blood donation lead and is working hard to increase donation within the 18 – 25 age group, liaising regularly with university groups and the NHS blood and transplant community engagement team. The groups run events in schools and universities and share educational pieces on social media. They work with the university groups network including societies such as 'Racial Equality in Medicine', Cultural Societies and Sports Groups to help publicise their work and share information.

Laura said “Our aim is to try and reduce the barriers for young people donating blood, making it easier for them to access centres and appointments, and having people there to support them for their first donation which can be a daunting prospect initially. However, forming new habits as a young person is relatively easy once they are established and we help them to do that.

In recent weeks we have achieved a grant of £20,000 to increase the number of blood donors from black Caribbean backgrounds, as ethnically matched blood is important for people receiving regular blood transfusions, for example, those with sickle cell anaemia. This grant will enable us to run targeted events with African Caribbean and racial equality societies tackling some of the barriers to blood donation including historic and current racism within healthcare systems, but also cultural barriers and common myths. Our blood donation groups are working in areas where the demographic has high representation of these communities so we can ensure we work closely with the right people to meet our goals.

As well as a busy schedule of blood donation work Laura is also president of Student Action of Refugees at Warwick Medical School. She and the team have had a successful year running a volunteer programme with Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre. “Our volunteers visit once a month and offer first aid courses for migrants from all over the world. We have now expanded that to include women’s health and will include menopausal, contraception, and maternity healthcare with female volunteers. Attendance has been good and we have had some really positive feedback.”

In addition to our work there we have also run two trips with Refugee Community Kitchen to the refugee camps in Calais where we have been able to provide support in the kitchens. That has been a great opportunity to see the impact of hostile policies up close and provide help in the short time we have available.

Laura continued, “I am particularly interested in health policy and education and how action can effect change. At the end of April, Student Action for Refugees will be running a panel event on campus looking at the health impact of UK anti-immigration policies which will include talks from local MP Zara Sultana, Doctors of the World, The Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre and mental health group the Inini Initiative. It should be a really informative and interesting evening and I would urge anyone with an interest in health policy and immigration to come along and get involved.