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New Leicester-Warwick medical students spend first day in an inner city supermarket

Three of the new medical students in Coventry
Three of the new
medical students in Coventry
Originally published 3 October 2000

The new Leicester-Warwick medical school welcomed its first students to the Warwick campus this week and promptly kicked them out the door to their first lesson - in a shopping precinct. The 67 students were dropped in groups in various parts of Coventry and were given details of various fictitious families (one example being a family living in a three-bedroom terraced house with a weekly allowance of about ?75 to feed the family of nine) the student's task was to explore and understand the social, economic and cultural factors which would have a key bearing on their potential patients' health and nutrition. Exploring the various shopping areas was one part of their task to help them understand some of the challenges faced in gaining access to adequate nutrition from being able to get to the shops, to being able to buy food within budget.

"I thought this was going to be a bit of a waste of time, But it's actually quite interesting. Unless you are exposed to how some people live, you can't understand or appreciate the difficulties they have,"
confessed 23 year old medical school student Holly Young.

The Leicester-Warwick programme is doubly innovative - as well as being a graduate entry programme the Leicester-Warwick students also have an emphasis on practical work in the community with the aim of helping students understand the social circumstances which can affect patients as well as their clinical needs.

"It's all well and good trying to treat a lady with amaemia, but if she has not got access to the right food then it is not going to help her," said 23 year old Kelly Davey, who already has a medical biology degree and a Masters degree in forensic science.

The hope is that they will become doctors that people would want to be treated by as they understand their patients better - it may also encourage the students to stay in the area to practice after graduating.

"If you have had a longer period throughout your training of patient contact then I think as you progress, your confidence grows and your ability to communicate grows,"
said 27 year old Jem Smith who has a PhD in pre-natal stress as well as a degree in basic medical sciences.

"Doctors in the future should be much more understanding of people's situations and the difficulties they face in trying to look after their health. They should be very much more socially aware and much more able to deal with everyday health problems.
" said Clare Blackburn, senior lecturer at the medical school.

The students will get even more insight into health in the community when they are placed with professionals, such as community nurses, across Coventry and Warwickshire to learn about the lives of "real people". The students will also work closely with GPs and community health services.

"This is one of the big reasons why I wanted to do this course, We are going to be getting patient contact early on in the course. The emphasis is moving away from stuffing us with facts and much more towards applying what we know from early on. In the past, doctors would have gone from the lecture theatre and into hospital with no real experience to equip them for that, whereas hopefully we will. It's medicine in the real world, You are not just treating a disease, you are treating a person,"
said 22 year old Katherine Fairhurst.

Further information about this press release and other media services at the University of Warwick can be obtained from:

Peter Dunn, Press Officer
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL
West Midlands
Tel: 024 76 523708