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Grassroots in Surgery

RCS England logo

18 May 2023

Royal College of Surgeons of England

Our Grassroots in Surgery scheme launched in 2022 to support those who are actively trying to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in surgery. In the past year, we have supported some fantastic projects and activities including SSTICH and Melanin Medics, you can read about their experiences below. If you feel inspired, apply for our 2023 cohort

circle image of Francesca Leone, Founder of SSTICH grassroot project
Francesca Leone
Founder and Course Director of SSTICH
Francesca Leone
It was our first session of the year. We started to teach the knot-tying section of the course, taking the class through a simple reef knot. One member of the class got it straight away after only one demonstration. I checked the knot, perfectly square. I asked her to repeat the skill for me: again, perfect technique. Moving on to suturing, once again this person showed a natural aptitude, despite never having been exposed to these skills before. This wasn’t a medical student or a healthcare professional. This was a Sixth Form student from Hull on a SSTICH course. 

Surgical Skills To Inspire Careers in Healthcare (SSTICH) is a surgical skills course aiming to widen access to surgically oriented careers in Hull. We know from the Kennedy Report and the – admittedly limited – literature that people from working-class or socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to become surgeons even after medical school and foundation years. SSTICH is trying to bridge this gap. 

It is aimed at sixth-form students from widening participation backgrounds to teach practical skills and develop their understanding of the diverse careers available in the surgical department and healthcare. The course emphasises that surgery is a team sport; the department is filled with skilled professionals that work together for the ultimate benefit of the patient. 

SSTICH cannot fix the ingrained social and economic disparities that young people face, however, we intend to plant a seed of possibility. We can only gain from the diverse experiences of potential colleagues from whatever walk of life they come from. We want the best hands operating on our patients, and those hands might just come from a deprived area of Hull.
circle image of SurgIn Lead  Melanin Medics, Surgin Lead
Teniola Adeboye
SurgIn Lead, Melanin Medics
Teniola Adeboye
'(The programme was full of) openness and transparency about what it truly takes' - Delegate A

The SurgIn: The Lewin Programme, is a 10-month iterative programme created by Melanin Medics focused on transforming training and career opportunities for surgeons of African and Caribbean heritage. The grassroots programme allowed us to further the ethos of our charitable organisation, to promote diversity, widen aspirations and aid career progression for doctors of African and Caribbean heritage. 

Issues particularly affecting surgeons of African and Caribbean heritage include litigation, lack of representation at leadership level and barriers to progression. We currently target trainees from foundation years to core surgical training and utilise ambassadors from a range of sociocultural backgrounds to deliver events. 

Our approach is one that allows community building, to provide “generational family advice” that our cohort may not be privy to. We do this through guided talks and 1-1 portfolio reviews, individualised interview preparation, and exploration of different career avenues and specialities. We look forward to events surrounding leadership and innovation, encouraging leadership in every trainee and how impactful change can be made through talks and workshops. We will also be running a Surgeon’s Sit Down, to hear from trainees and seniors about the core issues facing surgeons of African and Caribbean heritage.

Cultivating and delivering all these events with such quick turnover has not been easy. The College has aided through the Grassroots project grant and support with venues. However, none of the sessions would have been possible without volunteer ambassadors; consultants, trainees, and the Melanin Medics Team. 

It has been an honour to be part of this movement towards greater diversity in leadership. I hope SurgIn inspires all readers to be the change they want to see. SurgIn will continue to open the door a little bit wider, for people like me, into a successful career in surgery.

The College is delighted to have supported seven projects in the first year of our Grassroots in Surgery scheme; The Aspiring Medic’s Support CICThe British Association of Black Surgeons, Hull University Teaching Hospitals to support their Surgical skills to Inspire Careers in Healthcare (SSTICH) Manchester Medical School’s Surgical Society ‘Scalpel’, Melanin Medics, The Surgical Society of International Doctors, and Welsh Surgical mentorship scheme.  

Find out more about Grassroots in Surgery and apply for our 2023 scheme by Friday 23 June 2023. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact the team

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