UCL Medical School students and staff participated in this year’s Big Bang Fair held at the Birmingham NEC (13-16thMarch). The fair is aimed at 7-19 year olds and promotes careers related to science, technology, engineering and maths and this year was attended by about 80,000 children.
This event provided the perfect opportunity to promote issues surrounding organ donation as part of a UCL Grand Challenge to increase awareness of organ donation in black and minority ethnic groups.
Medical school staff including Katherine Woolf, Jayne Kavanagh and Zaheer Mangera have been contributing to this campaign, joining staff from other departments including lead collaborators Bimbi Fernando, Elizabeth Kruse, Amir Gander, Jessica Sims and Cecil Thompson. On the day there was also assistance from first year medical students Margarita Kousteni and Anxhela Gradeci.
The event allowed children to dress up like the traditional doctor with a white coat and stethoscope, helping virtual patients experiencing organ failure. Then they performed an “operation” on an anatomy model, getting the children to think about where different organs lie in the body.
During these activities there were plentiful opportunities to raise awareness about the shortage of organs with children and their parents and we received an overwhelming positive response. It was an action packed four days and the team demonstrated enthusiasm and excitement throughout, really engaging with hundreds of children and spreading a very important health message.
It is well known that organ donation and transplantation are important issues for people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups. They are overrepresented on the active transplant waiting list due to prevalence of particular conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension and hepatitis), underrepresented as donors and nearly twice as likely as people from whitebackgrounds to refuse organ donation from their deceased relatives. The problem is due, at least in part, to a lack of awareness by these groups of the Organ Donor Register (ODR) and the need for organs for transplants, because of faith and cultural stances toward organ donation, and because of a perceived lack of trust in doctors and the healthcare profession. The Grand Challenge project will continue to raise awareness about organ donation and specifically highlight this problem and so keep an eye out for future events.