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After the success of last year's virtual work experience, the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) again hosted an online work experience week for students interested in pursuing a career in science and medicine.

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This year, NDS ran a joint programme with the Nuffield Department of of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS). 

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place within the University of Oxford and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, a dedicated team of staff from across the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals, and the Botnar Research Centre, delivered an exciting online timetable of activities from Monday 5 to Friday 9 July 2021.

The virtual timetable enabled the students to connect with a wide range of people in various specialties to gain knowledge about different career paths and to discover some of the cutting-edge research, treatments and technology used within the two departments. It was a unique opportunity to meet surgeons and scientists, to learn how it is possible to combine clinical practice with research, to pick up top tips and to ask lots of questions. 

Running the programme completely online also meant that it opened up the opportunity to students who may not have been able to attend our usual in-person work experience because they don’t live close to Oxford - making it more inclusive and accessible. Plus, the work experience team were able to offer a selection of online talks which were available for any Y12 student to attend - allowing a larger number of students to hear from our researchers. 

An overview of what the week entailed

Icebreakers - some fun activities to get to know one other.

Mentor Time - split into smaller groups, each morning the students were given the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and ideas with each other and ask any questions they had. The NDS mentors were Dr Jo SnoeckDr Hannah McGivern and Ms Louise King. The NDORMS mentors were Ms Natalie Ford, Ms Teya Agnese, Ms Katie Chegwin and Ms Tiya Muluzi.

ProMOTE Trial - a talk with Ms Miriam O'Hanlon about the ProMOTE clinical trial into surgical interventions in prostate cancer.

Neuropathology - Dr Martin Gillies chatted about the history of neuropathology and the role of the neuropathologist. 

Robotic Surgery - Mr Alastair Lamb discussed the pros and cons of laparoscopic and robotic surgery, robotic innovation and the da Vinci Robot.

Meet a Surgeon - sessions were held with Professor David TaggartProfessor Alex Green and Professor Stuart Winter. The students enjoyed listening about their experiences and they way they balanced clinical work with research. In addition, Professor Winter led an ethical discussion around surgery for head and neck cancer during the COVID pandemic. 

Picture a Scientist Workshop - Picture a Scientist is a film which raises visibility around the critical issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in science. Conversations about these issues were facilitated by Ms Emily Hotine, Associate Professor Fadi Issa, Dr Eleanor Wilson and Ms Natalie Ford. 

Global Surgery - Professor Chris Lavy introduced three aspects of global surgery to get the students thinking about some of the challenges for patients, healthcare workers and health systems in resource-limited settings.  

Transplantation and Immunology - Dr Marie Sion spoke about the cutting-edge single cell RNA sequencing technique and introduced the Transplantation Research Immunology Group (TRIG).

Health Economics - with Ms Sophie Cole

Introduction to Clinical Trials - Ms Lucy Paterson, Ms Parisa Sinai, Mrs Jo Cook and Dr Elsa Mauricio Reus provided an introduction to the Surgical Intervention Trials Unit (SITU) and clinical trials, the role of the Trial Manager, and the development and running of clinical trials. The session included developing a Participant Information Sheet from a Trial Protocol and a surgical trials quiz. 

Lateral Flow Tests and more - with Professor Mark Coles.

Science Communication - Dr Hannah McGivern provided an overview of the different ways of communicating scientific ideas, followed by a pre-release screening of the Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD) video ‘Journey of a QUOD sample' revealing the work behind the scenes of this unique transplant biobank.

Lab Tour - a virtual tour of the lab in the Botnar Research Centre by Dr James Dunford.

Open Programme - available for any Y12 student to attend. Associate Professor Stephanie Dakin spoke about her research from horses to humansProfessor Chris spoke about global surgery, plus two more 'Have you thought of a career in medical research?' talks.

What the students said about their work experience week

'I really enjoyed talking to the members of the NDS and the NDORMS because it gave me the chance to enquire more about how clinicians balance a career in medicine alongside research. The talks were also insightful in giving me a brief overview of the kind of work the scientists do.'

'Learning about the different paths that people have taken to get to where they are now was incredibly useful. I also found all the talks to be very captivating and I loved that we were able to ask any questions freely.'

'I now appreciate more about the fact that there is no 'straight' pathway into medical research, and life is full of possibilities if you want to pursue a different career in the future.'

'It's made me much more focused on surgery as it has shown how rewarding and fulfilling a pathway it is with so many options available.'

'I would now really like to enter a career in science/medicine. I think that this work experience has just shown me how good it is and why I would love it.'

'Having the opportunity to meet researchers who are passionate and actually interested in what they are doing was great. I thought a career in research just meant staying in a lab all day by yourself, but talking to (and hearing) what the speakers had to say proved otherwise. There are many jobs in research and loads of ways to get there; I wouldn't necessarily have to go down the traditional university route which is cool. Seeing people excited about what they're doing, even if they've been doing it for 10+ years was really encouraging.'

'This experience has been really insightful and helpful, especially helping me make an informed decision for university. I really enjoyed the two departments coming together to give the work experience as I wouldn't have been able to explore the careers available in the NDORMS department.'

'I just want to express my gratitude for NDS and NDORMS to host this programme, which I am very lucky to attend. I enjoyed every day of the programme, and have now gained a much comprehensive and better understanding of clinical research.'

NDS Blog: My virtual work experience with NDS and NDORMS 

NDS applicant, Louise Tan, kindly wrote about her experience of participating in the programme for the NDS Blog.