Students on widening participation programme given taste of medical careers

Students attend medical taster day
Students on Pathway to Healthcare Programme attend medical taster day

11 January 2017 

  • Pupils from disadvantaged areas network with healthcare professionals
  • Medical taster day for those on Sir Doug Ellis Pathway to Healthcare programme
  • Aston Medical School boosting aspirations of local young people

Almost 100 young people on a learning and development programme to encourage aspirations of a medical career have been given a taste of a range of careers in the healthcare professions.  

The students – who are from disadvantaged circumstances and areas across Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country – are participating in the innovative Sir Doug Ellis Pathway to Healthcare Programme.

The 16 and 17 year-olds attended a special medical taster day at Aston University yesterday, 10 January, to meet local professionals including a children’s nurse, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, plastic surgeon, audiologist, pharmacist, optometrist, physiotherapist and clinical psychologist as well as a police crime scene co-ordinator.

Mandla Nkiswane, aged 17, pictured centre, who is studying A Level biology, chemistry and psychology at Moseley School, Birmingham, said: “I’ve really enjoyed discovering there is much more to care than just being a doctor. There’s a very wide range of medical careers and this programme lets you widen your spectrum. I’m determined not to waste this opportunity.”  

Sixteen-year-old Rizwana Begum, pictured right, studying A Levels in chemistry, biology, psychology and French at Bordesley Green Girls’ School, added: “This has been a very productive and interesting event. As a student, you don’t usually get the opportunity to network and socialise with the professionals and it’s a fantastic way of finding out about many different areas of healthcare and medicine.”

Farhana Ali, also 16, a pupil at Aston Manor Academy, Birmingham, said: “I love maths but today has made me think about child care and audiology as a future career.” 

The Sir Doug Ellis Pathway to Healthcare initiative launched last November and over the two-year programme the students will benefit from experiences including workshops, visits, research projects and work placements including at local hospitals and GP practices.

They will also receive guidance though the university application and interview process, mentoring, support from a team of ambassadors recruited from among the university’s students,   plus an intensive A Level revision “boot camp.”   

Mohammed Zubar Khan, crime scene co-ordinator for West Midlands Police, said: “This taster day is a fantastic opportunity for these young people and it’s important we engage with them and support them as they start their journey towards a career. The students are really interested and motivated and keen to participate and, in turn, we want to provide mentoring and placements.”

Lecturer and former nurse Kate Upton, said: “It a wonderful opportunity for the students to get to find out what they want to do and what career would suit their personality before they make their choices. The programme is well thought out and I’m very impressed with the quality of the students and with our ambassadors.”

Dr Francisco Leyva, consultant cardiologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham said: “The QE is totally behind this fantastic programme. It’s clear the students are engaged, inquiring and very bright. I am keen to see how we can pair up young people with a hospital physician who might mentor them.”

At the end of the programme, students meeting the admissions criteria will be able to apply for a subsidised place at the new Aston Medical School, or could opt for another healthcare degree course in a wide range of subjects such as pharmacy, optometry, audiology and biomedical sciences. They would also be supported in applying to other medical schools. 


Notes to the editor

Sir Doug Ellis Pathway to Healthcare Programme Year 12 pupils selected for the programme must meet at least one of the following criteria: be in receipt of a means-tested bursary (eg 16-19 Bursary); be eligible, or have been, for free school meals during secondary education (Ever 6); be from a local authority care background; be from a family where neither parent has attended university. 

They must also have attained B grades, or above, in five GCSE subjects including mathematics, English language, chemistry, biology or double science.

Sir Doug Ellis is deeply committed to Birmingham and to Aston University and is one of the city’s leading philanthropists. He assisted the university to undertake the refurbishment of the Sir Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre which benefits students and staff and the local community. He is recognised as the pioneer of the package holiday industry and his other business activities have included electronics, insurance, farming and retailing. He was Chairman of Aston Villa Football Club for 35 years and is now the club's Honorary Life President. Sir Doug was awarded the OBE for services to football and the community in 2004 and received an Honorary Degree from Aston in 2007.

Aston Medical School is scheduled to open its doors to its first MBChB medical students in the autumn of 2018. In addition to 20 places for local* students from disadvantaged areas and backgrounds, the School will accept up to 80 international* medical students each year.  (*subject to change)

All new medical schools in the UK have to be accredited by the General Medical Council (GMC) before they can open to undergraduates. In 2016 the GMC introduced a new, more stringent and lengthier accreditation programme and schools must achieve all five stages before approval will be given by the GMC’s board. Aston Medical School is the first to apply for accreditation under the revised scheme. 

A £15 million, purpose-designed, medical school is to be developed at the heart of the Aston University campus. 


Founded in 1895, Aston University has been a University since 1966, and has been always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, Aston held a year-long anniversary celebration in 2016 to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey. www.aston.ac.uk/50 

Aston's Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Alec Cameron, is the principal academic and executive officer of the University. Alec has overall responsibility for Aston's executive management and day-to-day direction. 

For media queries, contact Susi Turner, press & PR officer, on 0121 204 4978 or s.j.turner@aston.ac.uk   

More information about the programme, eligibility, how to apply, etc is here.

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