Saints of St Andrews Medicine series kicks off on Instagram
The “Saints of St Andrews Medicine” #saintsofstandmedicine series was launched on the University of St Andrews’ School of Medicine’s Instagram page to an impressive reception from staff and students. Inspired by “Humans of New York”, the series features profiles of staff from different areas of the school and was created to break barriers of engagement and help students connect on a personal level with staff while showcasing the different pathways staff have taken to get to their current positions. The idea for the series was developed by Deirdra Farmer, Student Support and E-Learning Coordinator at the School of Medicine. Speaking on the inspiration behind the series, Deirdra explained that the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant remote learning measures impacted the sense of community students had with the school staff and medics. She thought of a way to bridge this gap through social media and decided Instagram would be an ideal platform, given its popularity with students. Deirdra shared that role modelling is important in medicine, saying “students look up to staff like Alun [Hughes] and see this accomplished teacher and educator, but it’s easier to connect if you know his personality outside of the school”. She explained that students can be intimidated by the achievements of their teachers but showing that they had similar challenges as the students currently face could make the students feel more comfortable approaching teaching staff. Deirdra also expounded that she felt showing the teaching staff’s personal lives and backgrounds would be a good way to tackle impostor syndrome many medics face.
Dr Alun Hughes, Senior Lecturer at the School of Medicine was the first member of staff to be featured in the series. The post immediately gained popularity amongst followers and is the School of Medicine’s most-liked Instagram post to date. “We chose Alun [to kick off the series] as he had just been director of teaching and is also a module controller for our first-year students”, Deirdra explained. In the post, Dr Hughes revealed that he went to Primary School at Kincardine and Secondary School at Dunfermline High, both in the south of Fife and that outside of work, he is a roller derby referee and has officiated over 400 games including both the Women’s and the Men’s world cups. With a lot of teaching being done online, it was necessary to show students that the staff are still approachable, and Dr Hughes believes this story was an opportunity for softer interaction, replicating the chats one gets before lectures or while bumping into students at the corridor. “A lot of educators love the opportunity to engage and feel that close connection to the students and I feel this project is a really good way of achieving that and students appreciate that”, he said. “There are a lot of surprises when students see elements of the story such as the struggles some teaching staff had to go through to get to where they are now, some students don’t realise where the staff come from, I went to a high school down the road where some of them may have studied. It’s nice to see that the staff come from a wide range of diverse backgrounds too”, he added.
Five stories have been featured on the series to date, including stories on Dr Predrag Bjelogrlic, Pamela Dobson, Dr Peter Williamson and Dr Wilber Sabiiti. Deirdra shared that more interesting stories will be published in the coming weeks with the series expected to eventually expand to include current students and alumni. Followers can expect features with staff from professional services and stories covering ScotGEM. Staff or students who would like to be featured on the series can send an email to email@example.com.