Student Spotlight: BME Medics

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Culture Ball organisers from BME Medics and Liverpool Marrow Society

Student Spotlights pass the mic to our student doctors, to hear their take on their School experience and shine the light on a particular role, team or pathway through the School of Medicine.

Year Five Student Doctor and President of BME Medics Mahima Suresh Bharadwaj and Year Four Student Doctor and Secretary of BME Medics Rhema Otache have spent the past five months putting together a cross-society Culture Ball in celebration of nearly 50 different countries and cultures.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Medicine?

Mahima: I am an International student from Dubai. Growing up, my sister and I shared a deep interest in the medical sciences. After some work experience in hospitals and veterinary practices, I decided to pursue medicine as a career. Today, I find myself fascinated by Cardiology and enjoy teaching and medical education. These dual interests motivated me to apply for the Specialised Foundation programme (SFP).

two women in traditional dress at culture ball (L-R) Jessica Lwin, President of Liverpool Humanitarian Society and Mahima Bharadwaj, President of BME Medics

Rhema: I’m originally from Manchester and of Nigerian heritage. I was inspired to pursue a career in medicine because I had a keen interest in biology and healthcare with a particular interest in racial inequalities in the healthcare system. Studying medicine gave me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the healthcare system as well as be in a role where I could directly bring about change.

two women in brightly coloured dresses at culture ball (L-R) Rhema Otache, Secretary of BME Medics and Daisy Aje, Treasurer of BME Medics

What was it that brought you to Liverpool?

Mahima: Liverpool School of Medicine has been well established since the early 1800s. It is a member of the Russell group and has steadily climbed up the ladder and marked its place as one of the top universities for medicine in the UK. Personally, the field hospitals around Liverpool motivated me to apply.

As medical students here, we have the opportunity to gain experience from senior doctors working in some of the leading hospitals in the UK and across the world.

The Walton Centre, Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and Alder Hey Children Hospital are not only top of the board for clinical practice but also for research and academia.

It was a dream come true moment for me when I first read the email confirming my place in the programme! I was excited for the new start but moving away from home for the first time was quite challenging and I am grateful for my friends who always make me feel at home!

Rhema: When applying for medicine, the University of Liverpool was my first choice because it was the place that felt closest to home.

There was just a friendliness to the city that made me feel welcome and I instantly knew this was the place I wanted to be.

It also helped that it was close enough to home that I could grab a home-cooked meal on demand!

What have been your biggest highlights on the programme so far?

Mahima: The first thing that comes into my mind is securing an SFP post in medical education which provides me with an opportunity to nurture my dual interests in clinical medicine and education!

This year has been very eventful so far! Following the success of the Myanmar Food Fair (link) last year, for which we won the Guild Award for Fundraiser of the Year (link), Year Four Student Doctor Jessica Lwin and I co-organised the Myanmar Food Festival earlier in December, raising over £5000 for a charity that provides medical equipment and support to the local community in Myanmar.

We wanted to celebrate Burmese culture so along with authentic cuisine catered by Rice Over Everything we also had Burmese dance and music performances from the community.

Last, but definitely not least, celebrating culture has certainly been a highlight this year especially with the Culture Ball 2023 co-organised by myself and Rhema Otache as a part of the BME Medics Society.

Rhema: Many of the highlights come from the work I’ve done with BME Medics.

It was the first time I had a platform where I felt I could make the changes I wanted to see in the healthcare system and in medical education.

Winning Society of the Year in 2020 was amazing and felt like validation for the hard work we put in that year to help people through the pandemic.

I’ve also enjoyed working with the School’s staff-student EDI team (join us!), participating in research during my intercalated degree in Medical Sciences with Psychology and of course organising the Culture Ball with some of my closest friends. The Culture Ball will be one of those memories I know I will treasure for a long time.

students celebrate diverse cultures and countries at a culture ball event Culture Ball 2023

What is BME Medics all about in a nutshell?

Mahima: As a society, we aim to create a platform to provide opportunities for people from Black and Minority ethnicities in medicine. We have established ourselves in peer led teaching within the campus and also organise numerous socials and events!

Rhema: Our goal is to increase awareness of racial inequalities within the UK healthcare system and educate future doctors on developing more culturally aware practices through teaching and talks. We also aim to create social events that resonate with students from different cultural backgrounds.

How did the Culture Ball come about?

Mahima and Rhema: Over the past two years, BME Medics have constantly been thinking of ways to promote cultural awareness within the campus and the community.

At the start of this year, we had plans for seminars, workshops and panel interviews but we decided that what we really wanted to do is celebrate culture, and that the best way to promote cultural awareness on campus would be to organise an event like the Culture Ball.

table decor at culture ball Setting the scene at the Culture Ball

We incorporated cultural elements in different aspects, from decor to dinner and entertainment. The table decor included a culture tree with inscriptions from over 20 different languages. We had culture flash cards on every seat providing a quick summary of traditional music, dance forms, festivals, and languages of over 20 different countries.

As an ice breaker, we had a short culture quiz and our buffet featured Afro-Caribbean flavours and we touched on South-east Asian and Chinese flavours with our table snacks.

On the day we had attendees representing almost 50 different cultures and countries, boasting their traditional wear on the Culture Walk!

ACLT (Afro-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust) highlighted the discrepancies in healthcare, particularly bone marrow transplants, for people form Black and Minority ethnicities through an educative talk promoting donor registration.

woman presents on marrow transplants at culture ballPresentation from ACLT

Ria Meera Munshi dazzled us with a Bollywood dance performance and workshop and KYSO dance crew performed an amazing afro beats dance routine.

a performer at the culture ball Performance by Ria Meera Munshi

BME Medics Treasurer, Daisy Aje, performed a soulful medley of songs from Nigerian artist Asa.

Our aim was to ensure everyone who attended could see a piece of themselves in the event.

We could not have hoped for a better appreciation of culture and look forward to organising the Culture Ball again next year! We have received a lot of positive feedback and it would not have been possible without the support of all of our committee members, and we would like to take the opportunity to thank them as well as Liverpool Afro-Caribbean Society and Liverpool Marrow Society for working so hard on it!

What did you get out of the experience of putting on such a big event?

Mahima: Personally, I think we all get to know each other through our careers and hobbies, but seeing each other in a different light, closely connected to our cultural roots and embracing our cultures, was certainly the highlight of the event for me.

Overcoming regional boundaries and recognising ourselves as global citizens!

Rhema: Organising the ball was definitely more stressful than I ever imagined but I wouldn’t change a moment of it. I learnt a lot about what’s involved in the process of creating a big event and also about the customs of other cultures.

The best moment for me was the Culture Walk - seeing people walk down the runaway with pride, representing their countries was truly amazing.

attendees represent their cultures in a culture catwalk Highlight of the evening - the Culture Walk

What else should we look out for from BME Medics this academic year?

Mahima and Rhema: This is indeed an exciting year for us as a society. We are going to be organising our first conference ‘Tackling Health Inequalities’ next semester and we will be having mock clinical assessments and safe prescribing sessions for students in years 3 and Year 4 alongside regular monthly teaching sessions.

What is important to you in dedicating time for your interests outside of Medicine?

Mahima: I have taken some time to get involved in research projects in neurology, cardiology and paediatrics which has further developed my interest in these specialities. Outside of medicine, I enjoy working with charities and wildlife trusts and make sure to take time out during my vacations to visit sanctuaries and animal rescue shelters for volunteering. As a part of the Humanitarian Society, I have the opportunity to actively fundraise and work with charities. I also enjoy teaching, and spend some time teaching in local schools in Liverpool and Manchester during career days. I also help sixth form students aspiring to get into medicine with their applications and interviews.

Rhema: I definitely make a point of prioritising mental health. The course is demanding as well as rewarding. I try my best to study little and often but also timetable time for fun things like dance, bouldering and going out with friends. As important as it is to do well in this degree, it is equally (if not more) important to make sure you take care of yourself.

What are you most looking forward to right now?

Mahima: Looking past the exams, I am super excited for the ‘Tackling Health Inequalities’ conference, potential fundraisers and my SAMP placement in Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital!

Having secured an SFP post, I look forward to my journey in academic medicine.

Rhema: I’m looking forward to actually being a doctor in a couple of years! I’m still not sure what speciality I’m going to end up in, so the future is wide open and I’m excited, and a little nervous, to see what it brings.

What advice would you have to your first-year self?

Rhema: Medicine is wide and can be overwhelming at times. It might be looking a little hard to see where you fit in at the moment but there is definitely a space for you.

If you can’t visualise the space you want, then know you have the skills to create it and that there are several people willing to help you get there.

Mahima: As an international student, my advice is to find a piece of home when you are so far away from yours! Get more involved in cultural societies and make new friends as the course can be challenging at times, and we all need a little push and a helping hand to get us through!

Discover more

  • Follow BME Medics on Instagram (link) to stay up to date with all their events and socials.
  • Joining a student society is a great way to make friends, network and feel part of a community, and over 50 of those in operation at the University are run by student doctors. See the Guild website (link) for an A-Z list.
  • Get in touch with if you are interested in stepping into the Student Spotlight or would like to nominate a student or group to do so.