Well done to Matthew Byrne on winning the ‘Zeshan Qureshi Award for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Education’.
Matthew Byrne is a final year medical student at Newcastle University. Matthew’s contributions to medical education range from teaching seminars, to founding societies and publishing a revision resource. He has noticed the gaps in medical school curriculums and has made it his task to fill these, teaching publishing, research, and business skills. How has he achieved all of this whilst balancing his time with his own studies and acting as Editor-in-Chief of a National medical student journal? We’ll never know… but one thing is for sure: it’s inspirational.
Matthew’s journey began when he noticed “areas that I felt were lacking in my medical education…”
Matthew believes medical education extends beyond university lectures, seminars, and clinical experiences. As future doctors, medical students must also have skills that are often not formally taught in University.
“Yes, medical students must have good knowledge and practical competency, but they must also have good teamwork and leadership skills, and be able to communicate well in a variety of formats.”
Furthermore, Matthew feels exposure to educational materials relating to research during university is often limited which can directly impact on students’ medical careers, for example developing presentation and publication skills for a career in research or business acumen in General Practice.
“…so I set out to change this for future students.”
…As a teacher: First, to ensure medical students had good knowledge and practical competencies, during his time at university Matthew has been a teaching member of Newcastle Medical Education Society and Academic Medicine Society, and he has provided seminars on topics ranging from clinical medicine to physiology and research.
…As a leader and innovator: These experiences highlighted to Matthew that students found immunology one of the most challenging subjects and the teachers often found presenting difficult due to a lack of experience.
“To improve students’ knowledge relating to immunology I founded Newcastle University Immunology and Transplant Society and, acting as its current president, I have organised additional teaching sessions on immunology which received positive feedback from students.”
Matthew has also formed a network of consultant immunologists, transplant physicians and surgeons, and anaesthetists, totalling 74 individuals. Now, students can contact leaders in each field regarding immunology or transplant queries or research projects, and this is currently being developed into a mentoring program.
…And as an author: His experience also demonstrated that students often found revision difficult and dry.
“Wanting to make learning more engaging, I co-founded a medical revision workbook called ‘Coffee Break Medicine’ consisting of puzzles and exercises to offer an alternative form of revision.”
The Coffee Break Medicine Team employ students as content writers, allowing the students to develop as writers. The team also received a £3500 grant from Newcastle University to publish and provide copies of this book to first year medical students.
…From teaching core skills, to teaching how to teach…
“To improve medical students’ presentation skills I founded ‘Opt In’, a volunteer organisation that goes into schools to give talks about topics relating to medicine.”
Drawing from his experience presenting 16 posters and 4 oral presentations at national and international conferences, Matthew has provided teaching on presentation skills and mentored the 20 medical students involved. These students have now spoken to over 500 sixth-form students, and 12 schools in the North East have been recruited. As a result of this approach, 95% of the medical students feel more confident and that their presentation skills have improved. These results have been accepted for presentation at a national and international conference, and for publication. To increase access to these talks Matthew was awarded a Catherine Cookson Grant of £3300.
…while removing barriers to ensure these opportunities are available to everyone.
“Presentation at conferences is an invaluable experience for medical students to improve both verbal and written communication.”
However, it can be difficult and expensive for medical students to present at conferences.
To overcome this challenge, Matthew helped organise the 2016 North East Post Graduate Conference. It was the largest student medical bioscience conference and saw over 400 students attend. By securing over £10,000 sponsorship funding the committee allowed students to gain experience of presenting for free in a nurturing environment.
Matthew’s contributions to medical education don’t end there though…
“Collaboration is key to medicine, however it is often overlooked in medical education.”
To improve collaboration amongst medical students, Matthew founded a research collaborative to analyse educational materials for patients. This gave 54 medical students experience of the research process and demonstrated the benefits of teamwork and collaboration to them. This experience has been accepted for presentation at international conferences (British Transplant Society Conference, and the 7th EPITA meeting) and accepted for publication with all students listed as co-authors.
“It is rare for students to gain any business experience during their degree. However, as approximately fifty percent of medical students become General Practitioners, business knowledge is essential.”
Matthew has started three businesses with colleagues and, wanting to share his experience, he has organised talks on how to spot medical business opportunities, and how to develop these ideas as part of the Newcastle University Medical Leadership and Management Society.
“Research experience has become increasingly important for medical students, however, there is no pathway for the education of medical students relating to publication of research.”
Matthew is a trustee of the National Student Association of Medical Research (NSAMR), a charity (registered number: 1169158) that aims to increase education and understanding of research for medical students.
As part of NSAMR, Matthew is the current journal lead and Editor-in-Chief of the NSAMR Journal. Leading a national journal team of five students, Matthew has now developed a national journal for medical students to educate medical students about the publication process including manuscript preparation and peer review.
The journal team has developed online education modules and are in discussions with higher education institutes to see if these can be officially accredited. The journal has now recruited 229 student peer reviewers, 33 student section editors, has local representation at all UK medical schools, and is set to publish its first issue later this year.
For his work developing the journal, Matthew was awarded a national and international award: an Open Data Science Conference Scholarship and a Research Data Alliance Early Career Support award. Matthew has also presented this work at an international conference (RDA 8th plenary in Denver) and the project is kindly supported by the Wellcome Trust.