HLA:IDEAS student Kirsty Morrison, aged 22, has been recognised with the highest accolade a young person can achieve for social action or humanitarian efforts – The Diana Award.
Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Award is given out by the charity of the same name and has the support of both her sons, The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex.
Kirsty has been awarded The Diana Award for helping to make medical school accessible for all.
After COVID-19 prohibited in-person events, Kirsty founded ‘We Are Medics’, an online platform that provides free, open-access support to 16-18-year-olds from low-income backgrounds applying for healthcare degrees.
Through its website and eBooks, the organisation offers free dedicated support and guidance for young people navigating the medicine and dentistry application processes. The provision of support is designed to level the playing field for applicants to medicine and dentistry, two ultra-competitive degrees.
Speaking about the award, Kirsty said: “It’s really exciting to be recognised in this way and I hope it will help highlight the importance of outreach and widening access work done by students across UK higher education. I am a strong believer that the healthcare sector’s workforce should be representative of the general population.”
Kirsty founded ‘We Are Medics’ the same day that Boris Johnson made the announcement for school closures and exam cancellations due to COVID-19.
Along with a group of University of Birmingham medical students who had already volunteered to help widen access to medicine, Kirsty used Instagram livestreams to replace cancelled outreach events at local schools.
The Instagram account was shared with partner schools in the West Midlands and the account grew exponentially, with now over 11,000 followers.
Today Kirsty’s widening participation work has had a tremendous impact on students, with the online content at ‘We Are Medics’ reaching approximately 29,000 people each week.
The 6 free eBooks were downloaded over 50,000 times in 2020 and it is estimated that 1 in 3 young people who sat the UCAT (a UK medicine admissions test) prepared using this as a resource.
Kirsty added: “Ultimately we want to address geographical cold spots, where some young people in rural communities in the UK cannot access widening participation schemes or support."
“All our content will always be free to use and access – we are committed to widening access to medicine and levelling the playing field for applications. All our activities are designed to be scalable enough to reach all those who need to access them. In 2020, more than 28,000 young people applied to medicine in the UK – so we have a lot of applicants to reach!”
Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award, says: “We congratulate all our new Diana Award recipients from the UK and all over the globe who are changemakers for their generation. We know by receiving this honour they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens. For over twenty years The Diana Award has valued and invested in young people encouraging them to continue to make positive change in their communities and lives of others.”
Kirsty was part of the HLA:IDEAS programme – an incubator for social enterprises and non-profit organisations in healthcare. The programme empowers healthcare professionals to take their ideas further, to achieve the most significant impact. The two-year programme offers scholars bespoke support to help develop their goals and company vision, as well as providing access to mentors who can support with strategy, leadership and organisation governance.