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‘Melanin Matters’: A Student-Led Anti Racism Project

by Pavel Loginovic and Shihan Salihu

We are Pavel and Shihan, two members of the Melanin Matters Team. Melanin Matters is a group composed of 4 Medical Students at the University of Exeter that aims to bridge the diversity knowledge gap existing in our medical curriculum.

Everything started when we went to the Respect Festival 2022 held at Belmont Park alongside 5 other medical students to raise awareness of the presentation of skin conditions across different skin tones to the public. On that occasion, we had the opportunity to interact with over 500 people, thanks to posters we made and anatomy models we borrowed from the Medical School. During this festival, we got the public to fill a quiz before and after viewing our posters and interacting with us. We noticed a significant increase in awareness and interest from the public, alongside a more accurate understanding of dermatological conditions and debunking myths of dermatology.

While organising and executing this project, we noticed that we improved in key skills such as public speaking, creating online resources and teamwork. The most significant and we believe important to us was the medical knowledge we gained from this project, we felt more confident and skilled to explore medical conditions during our placements.

It is with this interest to spread this knowledge that Natasha, one of the Melanin Matter Leaders, approached and applied to the Exeter Education Incubator Student-led Anti-Racism project fund in Term 2 2023. The main premise of our application is to create a website gathering different skin conditions and us exploring the differences in presentation on different skin colours and how treatment may differ.

We also allocated a part of the fund to renew our stand at the Respect Festival 2023 as we really appreciated conversing with the public. This time, we did not get the public to fill a quiz but rather focused on discussing with them the importance of being aware of skin conditions and how they may differ across skin tones. We enjoyed this experience and were grateful we had our poster and models to complement the discussion we had. It was extremely interesting to listen to the various stories and experiences people had or heard of around dermatological conditions – a rare and very valuable opportunity. The best part though was exploring the human body with keen and enthusiastic children, they were delighted and so were we!

The Melanin Matters Team at the Exeter Respect Festival, 2023.

The biggest phase of this project was creating the website. We started from scratch with not much contact or understanding of how & where to start. We are extremely grateful to the Education Incubator team for guiding us and encouraging us to explore the different opportunities present at the University. We came across the Digital Makerspace led by Pierre, who very kindly allowed us to borrow equipment to film our videos (computer, camera, microphone). We had the opportunity to contact an Exeter Alumni, who set up his own company, Chris from Hatless Studios, to help us develop the website and get everything in order. Furthermore, our team members liaised with various stakeholders, including members of the British Association of Dermatologists and local dermatologists on choosing the direction of the website. This project made us improve our self-confidence, and showed us the value of networking and using that network for the benefit of your project. It allowed us to discover people and hidden gems at the university such as the Digital Maker Space that we believe should be given more exposure. While we are yet to finalise the website and quantify the reach and impact, it already has been an invaluable opportunity.

Through this project, we were able to attend a seminar on Creative Leadership workshop where we learned key skills such as but not limited to how to make a healthier environment around our workspace to allow creativity to flow. This workshop allowed us to interact with other members of the University who are leading interesting projects of their own. We gained a lot of insight and ideas that help us in our website design.

Overall, taking part in this project was such an amazing experience where we discovered fabulous and interesting people and developed key skills we believe will be crucial for us in our professional career. Moreover, we got a chance to contribute to the everchanging and meaningful field of medical education and equality within it.

Thank you, Exeter Education Incubator!

We also wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some good news! Prior to receiving our Incubator funding and working with other student colleagues, team members wrote and submitted a short report ‘Students bridging the diversity gap in dermatology – A mixed methods stud of medical education’ to the Open Access Journal of The European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. It has recently been published and can be accessed here. In this short report we demonstrate how important and beneficial such projects can positively impact Medical Students.

SLAR Projects Students

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