Students at QE were inspired to pursue careers in the health industry after receiving a visit from pathologists and scientists from hospitals across the North East. More than 100 students from QE learnt about career pathways into pathology via interactive activities, such as why autopsies are carried out and how a range of diseases are detected. The lessons were given on board the mobile MELISSA vehicle, an NHS training and simulation bus, which stopped off in Darlington. The event was organised by the Royal College of Pathologists as part of its Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Dr Ali Robb, consultant microbiologist at Newcastle’s RVI and head of school for laboratory medicine at Health Education England in the North East, said: “Pathologists are not always seen by patients yet we’re involved in 70 per cent of diagnoses that are made in healthcare, so with the help of MELISSA we can raise awareness of what we do in a fun way as well as inspiring students to go into healthcare.”

The students who got on board are all studying Biology, Applied Science and Health and Social Care at the college. QE student, Ruby Holly Shrehorn, of Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, said the event had been ‘fun’. The 17-year-old, who is studying for A Levels in English Literature, Biology and Chemistry, said: “I like learning about diseases and the human body, so I’ve found it really interesting. I’m still deciding what I want to do next, but I am looking at biological writing so this has been really useful.” Fellow student Scott Campbell, 18, of Darlington, who’s studying English Language, Film and Applied Science, said: “It was interesting and I particularly liked learning about autopsies. I am considering a career in healthcare as I’ve always been interested in human biology so this has been good.”

Darlington Mayor, Anne-Marie Curry, and Darlington MP Peter Gibson dropped into the bus to see how the students were getting on. Said Mayor Curry: “This is a wonderful way of engaging young people. It will open their eyes to the kind of work available in the health industry and I’m sure it will inspire some of them to pursue careers in pathology.” Peter Gibson MP said: “It was a very interesting visit, and it was really encouraging to see students engaging with health professionals about a potential career in the health sector and in particular this more specialised field of medicine.”

Meirion Baker, assistant principal at QE said: “This collaboration between the NHS Melissa Bus, the Royal College of Pathologists and QE was a fantastic opportunity to engage students with aspects of health science, an area in which high level skills are in great demand. The bus is a marvellous resource and the activities which medical staff shared with our students were excellent, giving a real insight into a fascinating specialism. The day was enjoyed by all of those who took part and will allow students to make important connections between their classroom learning and the world of work.”

Karam Karrar, of Darlington, who is taking a gap year before medical school and has been working as a volunteer at QE, said: “The sessions have been really interactive and having medical people here to ask questions of has been very valuable.”