Supporting DIMAH: The view from Leeds

I attended the Diversity in Medicine and Health (DIMAH) National Conference in London on the 6th of May 2016 (which was opened by the President of The General Medical Council) and I think that it became clear on the day that our School was doing well in its diversity teaching.

I think with a greater involvement with the National DIMAH Working Group it may help me professionally to share our local good practice at a national level on diversity issues and it may enable me to bring learning to our School plus to assist in wider collaborations.  This work could also help in our bids for future Aspire Awards and may lead to joint papers in this field of expertise.

DIMAH is a national collaborative organisation which was created in 2011.  Their aim is to support the quality assurance of medical education with respect to diversity through curriculum development to delivery and assessment. In 2010 a Higher Education Academy Workshop identified that there had been slow progress in the development of UK diversity teaching.  The workshop led to the establishment of a national working group ‘DIMAH ’to address these issues. 

In line with the GMC’s Tomorrow’s Doctors’ (1993) for 18 years Leeds School of Medicine has enabled our medical students to go out into the community to learn from diverse patients, carers and diverse communities and we have always promoted diversity teaching in its broadest sense.  It is also a testament to our pioneering work that we received the BUPA National Communication Award for this as far back as 2002.  Through our range of community interactions we aim to enable our students to critically engage with diverse communities, to have a dialogue where both parties learn from each other.

Our Faculty of Medicine and Health aim to facilitate ground breaking improvements to health and reduce health inequalities locally, nationally and internationally.  We also aim to achieve excellence in our approach to diversity education within medicine.  Working with DIMAH also fits in with the University Strategy to enhance strategic partnerships and collaborations in education, research and innovation regionally, nationally and internationally.  This also offers us the opportunity as the Strategy argues to be creative, innovative and enterprising to make an impact.  Our diversity work in its broadest sense also offers our medical students an exceptional experience.

For the last 5 years in Campus to Clinic Years 1 & 2 groups of students (in groups of four) whilst at Primary Care visit a local voluntary group close to their practice placement (which they find and organise themselves) to learn about the role of the voluntary sector as potential partners in local healthcare delivery.  As well as helping the students to also think holistically about healthcare these community visits may also help to build links between practices and the third sector which is what the voluntary sector is always asking for.

In Year 2 IDEALS Inclusion Health – Valuing Diversity since 2001 we have also been bringing in about 20 outside community organisations (and service users) from a diverse range of community groups twice per year to run small group interactive workshops where the students can learn from those who are often working on the front-line with diverse communities (see recent Community Newsletter, page 2 for a full list of workshops). Workshop ideas have also come from medical students and the voluntary sector themselves.

We also bring in a diverse range of language tutors to teach basic welcoming phrases in BME languages common to Leeds as part of our IDEALS 2 Language Labs and the tutors also say a bit about the background to the language and culture of the country it comes from.  Each tutor has also made a video podcast on their language which is available to all students on our Virtual Learning Environment. The idea is for doctors to learn some basic phrases to be more welcoming to diverse patient groups as well as building a good rapport between doctors and diverse patients before an interpreter is involved.

In the RESS Year 2/3 Pre-Xmas Student Selected Projects part of the curriculum we also offer 35 medical students placements with diverse voluntary groups in Leeds over 2 weeks in December and this has been running at Leeds with very diverse community choices since 2000. The students keep an individual reflective diary which is assessed and write a community newsletter article in pairs on their placement and the best of these go into our actual community newsletters (see Community Newsletter Issue 45, Spring 2016 page 2 for a full list of our RESS SSP community placements in 2015 and also see page 8 for a student community newsletter piece).  Over the last 5 years about 120 students have also done an SSP on Sign Language and all of the above are just some examples of the work we do.

Our medical students come from diverse backgrounds and all of our community interactions aim to enable our students as tomorrow’s doctors whatever their backgrounds to be able to work with diverse patients whatever their backgrounds. 

At my first DIMAH Working Group in Liverpool (21/7/16) I was able to suggest that DIMAH keeps up the momentum following the very successful National Event in London (6/5/16) by sending a punchy but brief report on the national conference to all Medical Schools as soon as possible.

I also supported the idea of having more regional DIMAH events.

I further supported the idea of DIMAH trying to find a simpler way of Schools paying to join them and also for allowing international membership of DIMAH.

I also suggested DIMAH could make a video podcast to promote their work.

I also wondered if  DIMAH could also explore introducing Bronze, Silver, and Gold Standard Awards for Medical Schools in the UK for their Diversity Teaching Practice and asked that this is on their future agendas.  I contributed ideas on a joint project between Manchester Medical School and a School in Sri Lanka suggesting as well as students learning via Skypte about the different health systems in the UK and Sri Lanka that they could also critically explore health inequalities in both countries as both have levels of poverty (relative in the UK and probably absolute in Sri Lanka).   I promised to post something on our work on their website including on our progress in achieving 5 out of 6 action points identified at the London Conference afternoon workshop.

Leeds Progress on 6 Action Points:

1. Leeds School of Medicine are to join DIMAH. 

2. We have produced a Lite Bite for our CPD Programme on Inclusion Health – Valuing Diversity which also includes information on DIMAH and gives the address of their website.

3.  I have written a short piece on our Diversity work which I will send to the Secretary of DIMAH to post on their website.

4. We are exploring with the Leeds School of Medicine Annual Clinician’s Day Planning Team bringing in two outside groups (on Refugee Health, and Deaf Awareness) to run two Valuing Diversity workshops at their event. 

5.  We have offered a year 4 ESREP project that gives medical students the opportunity to evaluate our year 1 Diversity Teaching but unfortunately had no takers this year in its first year of being offered but we will promote it more and offer it again next year.

6. In the long-term we aim to carry out a survey amongst doctors who recently graduated from our School to seek their feedback on the potential benefits of our Diversity Teaching plus also asking them for any potential ideas to improve our practice. 


Barry Ewart, Community Education Development Officer

Leeds School of Medicine

Email:  Tel. 0113 343 4358.