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Help surgeons recognise every body

22 Dec 2021

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has launched a ‘Winter Appeal’ to support the development of a unique medical media library that reflects the true diversity of the population. 

Reflecting all skin colours, body types, genders, ages and abilities, it will provide a global tool to improve medical education and training through a greater breadth of images, capturing the external features of the body.

No two people look the same. And yet in medical training there is a bias towards young, slim, white bodies.  The Winter Appeal, which aims to raise £20,000, will ensure that the surgeons of the future have access to images that are diverse, inclusive and accurately reflect themselves and the patients they serve.  The image library will be free to use, to ensure the widest possible education of trainees, doctors and surgeons.

Professor Neil Mortensen, President, Royal College of Surgeons of England said:
“Surgeons need to be able to recognise a medical condition by the way it presents on all skin colours.  Every size, shape, and colour of human surface anatomy needs to be represented in our textbooks, online learning and lectures, covering all the surgical specialties. Our Winter Appeal seeks to raise funds for this important goal.  In line with the Kennedy Review and our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, we want to ensure that surgical teams and the wider medical profession have access to images that are diverse, inclusive and accurately reflect themselves and the patients they serve.”

Nuha Yassin, Council member at the Royal College of Surgeons of England said:
“Together, we are changing the face of surgery and in order to fulfil this promise, we have to be truly inclusive in all aspects of surgery and surgical education and training.  It is important for all involved in patient care to have a sense of belonging, which will help foster a diverse and inclusive workforce. The new media library will provide a global, diverse and inclusive tool to improve medical education and training. By accurately representing our diverse society in our education and training material we will ultimately help to improve overall patient care.”

Professor Richard Tunstall, project lead, Royal College of Surgeons of England and Professor of Clinical Anatomy, University of Warwick said: 
“I have seen first-hand the effect of these imbalances on medical students. Students who cannot see themselves within the resources from which they are studying can be made to feel abnormal or an outlier, can feel dissociated from the material they are learning or unworthy of being in medical training, and because of these issues may not perform as well.”  

Michael Okocha, Diversity Officer at the Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) said: 
“How many good medical trainees are we losing because they are not fairly represented within medical education? If we better support our trainees by representing the full breadth of their diversity within medical education, we will have a much stronger and diverse workforce, representative of all patient groups.” 

The GMC’s 2019 Workforce Report, reports that 53% of licensed doctors identify as White with 47% identifying as Black, Asian, Mixed or Other ethnic groups. The greater diversity of the UK medical workforce (compared to the UK general population, where 87% of people identify as White) is predominantly driven by non-UK trained Black, Asian, Mixed or Other ethnic group doctors.  


Notes to editors

  • To donate to the ‘Winter Appeal’ go to the campaign page
  • A qualitative study published by the BMJ in 2019 on student perspectives on barriers to performance for black and ethnic graduate-entry medical students in the West Midlands found that many students felt a lack of representation and lack of understanding of cultural differences among staff impacted their experience
  • GMC – ‘The State of Medical Education & Practice in the UK 2019’ 
  • Following the Kennedy Review, the College launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan in September 2021. The Action Plan set out a clear timeline for how the College will address Baroness Kennedy’s 16 recommendations. We will be sharing an update on our progress this spring. Together, we can change the face of surgery
  • The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity. The College provides world-class education, assessment and development to more than 28,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. The College sets professional standards, facilitates research and champions the best outcomes for patients – with a vision to see excellent surgical care for everyone
  • For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052. Email: For out-of-hours media enquiries: 020 7869 6056.

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