Every student deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness at University. Unfortunately,this isn’t always the case for transgender students. So, how can you step up and be an authentic ally for the transgender student community? Medical student, Elliot, discusses all things allyship.
Treating people with respect and dignity is the utmost priority for many people at university, however meeting someone who is transgender can be confusing and new for a lot of people. With ever changing laws, media output and opinion, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and swept up when trying to care about those around you. I have compiled the some tips for supporting the trans(non-cis) people in your life, so that you know where to start.
This festive period, Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.
Ubuntu (ooh-bun-too) is a concept, a philosophy, a way of living in Africa. It highlights the interconnectedness of all individuals and encourages people to recognise their shared humanity. Here, Dr Sungano Chigogora, Senior Teaching Fellow in Epidemiology in the School of Public Health, explores the spirit of Ubuntu and why it should be at the heart of teaching and learning.
In Central and Southern Africa, Bantu means ‘people’ or ‘humanity’ to hundreds of millions of individuals whose languages have common ethnolinguistic roots. To them, Ubuntu is a core characteristic of humanity that extends beyond the individual, and recognises not only their humanity, but how they belong to a deep community in which they can participate, share, and grow. As observed by the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks to the very essence of being human. … to give high praise to someone we say … ‘he or she has Ubuntu’. This means that they are generous, hospitable, friendly, caring, and compassionate” (Tutu, 1999).
When it comes to healthcare, there are clear and stark inequalities between women and men. Marina Politis, Alice Witt, and Kate Womersley explain how, at its root, this gender health gap derives from a research and data gap, and how the MESSAGE project is working to improve accounting of sex and gender dimensions in medical research.
Everyone aspires to receive gold standard treatment when seeking medical care. What if, however, this standard, was only ever set out to be gold for one group of people? Much of our medical evidence base has been based on a male norm, with women underrepresented at all stages of the research pipeline. Subsequently, when a woman suffers an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, she is less likely to receive bystander CPR than a man. Once in the hospital, she continues to be less likely to receive optimal care than her male counterpart.
The gender health gap in cardiovascular disease – poorer outcomes women experience due to the “male default” in health research and healthcare – is just one of many conditions for which there are disparities between women and men. From dementia to diabetes, and osteoporosis to obesity, sex and gender differences and similarities remain neglected in UK and international research.
Despite major progress in treatment and prevention, being diagnosed with HIV can have a big emotional impact on individuals. People with HIV have higher rates of mental health problems than those seen in the general population. One reason for this may be HIV-related stigma, explains Professor Alan Winston from the Department of Infectious Disease.
Since the late 1990s, I have been treating people living with HIV and been involved in HIV clinical research. Many things we read about HIV are success stories, and quite rightly we should celebrate these tremendous scientific and medical advances. Life expectancy for someone with HIV is now similar to that of the general population. Antiretroviral therapy generally has manageable side effects and for most individuals, does not incur that many tablets per day. Indeed, many HIV treatments involve taking only one tablet per day. So, why then do so many people with HIV suffer from depression, other mental health conditions, and a poorer quality of life?
Experience in clinic
Most people living with HIV, once on a stable treatment, will attend their treatment centre twice per year. Often appointments rotate between a consultant or medical doctor once per year and a nurse specialist on the other occasion. As we can’t cure HIV, our patients attend for life, and we get to know them very well. At consultations, in addition to routine monitoring, we ask people how they are keeping. What stands out are the number of individuals who report symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions such as anxiety. Whilst many of us suffer from mental health complaints, the burden of these complaints in people living with HIV is very high. Thankfully, we do have help in clinic and have a specific clinic run by a psychiatry nurse specialist we can refer patients to.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex or aseaxual (LGBTQIA+) travellers can face unique challenges when travelling abroad. That’s why, Rosie Maddren, Lucy Okell, Beth Cracknell-Daniels, Joseph Hicks and Christina Aitchison from the School of Public Health set up the LGBTQIA+ International Support Group at Imperial to help improve the overall experience of going abroad for LGBTQIA+ staff and student travellers.
“So are you married?”
I freeze. How do I respond? It seems like a simple enough question, but I’m gay (and so is my spouse). The question is being asked by a taxi driver in a country where not only is same-sex marriage illegal, but so is homosexuality in general. And it’s not just something imposed by the government. A recent poll suggested that 90% of this country’s citizens have a negative view of LGBTQ people. So how do I respond? How would you?
Travelling abroad for work is a rewarding opportunity that can come with challenges for any student or staff member. For those identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, such travel can be associated with further complications. Legal restrictions and societal norms of some countries may make LGBTQIA+ staff and students feel anxious, unwelcome or unsafe. Unfortunately, in certain environments being your true self can directly impact your safety. On the other hand, presenting a censored version of yourself may negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. There is no single correct way to navigate such situations, and there is limited guidance on this topic provided not only by Imperial, but wider networks across the globe. Last year, a group of us started working together to help build support for LGBTQIA+ staff and student travellers at Imperial.
How can we close the gender gap in STEM? Dr Ilaria Belluomo explores how a new network at Imperial aims to provide a safe space for women to discuss and plan their careers in leadership roles – in and outside academia.
We are all aware of the disparity between the number of men and women in senior academic positions, as well as the limited number of female mentors available to support and inspire young girls interested in pursuing a career in science. This small percentage of female representation can give the impression that a career in science and academia, in the current climate, can be difficult and hard for women to pursue. Things are slowly improving, but we are only at the beginning of initiating this change. We continue to have conversations and work on initiatives to ensure that the academic gender gap can be improved.
As well as providing vital relief to disadvantaged children and families, free school meals are essential to ensuring children reach their full potential, writes Dr Jennie Parnham from the School of Public Health.
On 19th February 2023, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, announced plans to provide free school meals to all primary schoolchildren (ages 4-11 years) in London.
In England only infant schoolchildren (4-7 years) are given universal free school meals (UFSM). For older children, free school meals are means-tested and are only available to households receiving Universal Credit (with incomes <£7,400/year). The remaining children must pay for school meals.
This policy will dramatically expand the current free school meal provision in London, reaching 270,000 children at a cost of £130 million. But what will this unprecedented policy announcement mean for children, their families, and our wider society?
As a chronically under-represented and under-researched group, the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ healthcare staff in the workplace are often neglected. Third-year medical student, Avani Ela Kaura, highlights why it’s imperative that we listen, address and support the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ people.
Exploring how work-related stress affects LGBTQIA+ healthcare professionals in my recent Letter to the Editor was greatly saddening, and a little dark. However, having been published in The BMJ and reaching a wider audience, my hope is that awareness has been raised, granting volume to these silenced voices. This is especially important as the unique yet varied experiences of LGBTQIA+ people are in-genuinely, or more frequently, not explored. Despite being at the dawn of my career, I am keen to pioneer a movement of change.
This festive period, Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.
The journey to becoming a clinical academic can be long and arduous, with many obstacles. Dr Maddalena Ardissino, from the National Heart and Lung Institute, reflects on her own experiences as a trainee and explains why mentorship is key to supporting the growth and development of young, aspiring clinical academics.
Almost exactly five years ago, I stood amongst a crowd of young academics at a poster session at the Intensive Care Society’s annual conference, experiencing a feeling of anxiety I’ve never known before or since. I was in my fifth year of medical school and standing in front of a group of excellent researchers who were about to listen to me give my first scientific presentation. It seemed unthinkable to me, at the time, to think that they might have the slightest interest in what I had to say.
Since then, my journey through clinical and academic training has been what I can only describe as an adventure. I quickly realised that there isn’t a single defined path for clinical academics, with each individual moulding a slightly different journey. When I look around at my fellow clinical academics at the National Heart and Lung Institute, however, there is one key feature that we all share: enthusiasm. And behind this feature there is one single, common theme: the support of a truly inspirational mentor.
2020 was a strange year. We lived through a pandemic that took a huge toll on our economy, our mental wellbeing, and for some of us the lives of our loved ones. 2020 was also the year in which there was renewed interest in addressing social injustices that have impacted traditionally underserved communities across the world.
At Imperial College London, like many other academic institutions, there were many discussions being held about our history, curriculum, use of language to describe people, and the representation of students and staff of different backgrounds at various levels. (more…)