Congratulations to Adam Vaughan on achieving Highly Commended in the 2019 Zeshan Qureshi Award for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Education.
Teaching first grabbed my attention when I was 13 and my school arranged a day where students took over their teachers’ lessons; I taught my class how to say different TV programmes in French. Who’d have thought that nearly 10 years later I’d be running my own multinational education company?
I began my MedEd career by volunteering to teach with the Newcastle MedEd Society. I then secured a place on committee as Year 2 Lead where I was responsible for creating a new revision course to supplement the university’s new curriculum. We trialled new formats that have never been tried before, including introducing monthly lectures, and using new software to allow students to ask questions anonymously to increase participation. From this, I created two research projects with my team, which we presented at this year’s TASME conference: “Near Peer Teaching in Newcastle University MedEd Society: Are Regular Revision Lectures a Good Addition to Pre-Exam Preparation Sessions” and “Anonymous Questioning: Breaking Down Barriers to Learning”.
I was so enthused by creating these new projects that I craved more innovation. I wanted to build something that wasn’t confined to Newcastle, something that could benefit many more people. Over the years, I’d created lecture notes which had been complimented as I shared them round, so a good starting point was to create a platform to share these with everyone.
Bored at the back of a lecture one day, I thought that this has to change. We can make education so much more exciting than this, and help people get through the stress of medical school. I opened my laptop and played around with some shapes which formed my company’s logo, and Chunk ‘n’ Check LTD was born. I remember being hugely put off by the fact that I needed to pay £12 to register Chunk ‘n’ Check as an official business and stalled for weeks. But I’m so glad I decided to go for it, and by January 2019 I had created my first business.
I struggled my way through a GCSE in ICT; creating a website was not part of my skillset. I couldn’t afford to pay anyone to make one, so I spent hours piecing it together with sheer grit and determination. The end result was a platform I could use to share my notes, and recruit my team. The beauty is we don’t need much investment to function as a non-profit organisation, apart from the investment of time and passion from my volunteers. As I selected my early team, other people came forward who weren’t based in Newcastle, and I thought, why don’t we turn this into a nationwide team? There’s now 24 of us across the country making this happen and I’m so proud of all the hard work everyone puts in, especially because Chunk ‘n’ Check is still under a year old.
The impact of the project was instantly visible. The first Facebook post reached 6000 people. People obviously wanted more, and that gave me the drive to keep going. Within 5 months, we were reaching people across all 5 continents. People began to come forward to ask if they could get involved, and now I have an international team, with people working under my brand in Canada, Japan, China and Singapore. Over 15,500 people have benefited from our website in the short 11 months we’ve been set up, with an exam season peak of 700 visitors per day. I’m thrilled with the benefit my project has had on students across the world.
Naturally, it hasn’t always been straight forward. I’m really interested in the role of YouTube in education, but learning how to make good revision videos is a challenge we’re still overcoming. We began by awkwardly reading a script off a screen, avoiding the camera, so I went home and made an autocue using a shoebox and a piece of glass. That made filming easier, but after filming 6 videos, we noticed that the audio was terrible due to the camera being behind glass. I bought a microphone ready for the next time, but after 2 hours of filming we noticed that we hadn’t turned it on and none of our videos had any sound! Although the setbacks can be frustrating, from each session we’ve learnt an important lesson so we can make our next video better than the last.
I think it’s extremely important to allow students to develop themselves as teachers too, and this is something I’m also working on in my role as Vice President of Newcastle MedEdSoc. I’m offering a new programme of appraisals for our teachers so they get useful and constructive feedback to allow space to nurture their skills. This is something I’m passionate about, as in medical careers we find ourselves teaching those below us in training, yet little teacher training is offered, so Chunk ‘n’ Check recently ran a Teaching Course which was well received by around 50 delegates in the North East.
All medics should aim to widen participation. I also spend time reaching out to sixth form students applying for medicine to help with their career choices, personal statements, and interview preparation by arranging mock interviews via Skype. Being the first generation of my family to go to university, I remember how difficult the process was.
Although I’m just getting started, I am so excited for my career! I can’t pretend that it’s easy to find time to pursue my projects, and the stress of managing a team of people often takes its toll. I originally found it hard to adjust to different roles, but then I discovered the concept of “bringing your whole self to work” and it has revolutionised my thinking. You don’t have different roles, you have one role – to be yourself. I’m actively promoting this culture with everyone I meet to change the way we work in the NHS. Learning to adopt this practice has been the key to developing my business, supporting people, and contributing to the world of education.