International Women’s Day 2019

We’re celebrating women at the University of Edinburgh who are doing incredible things on top of their work and studies here. From ultra running and yoga outreach to global surgery and championing mental health and wellbeing, read on to meet our inspiring colleagues.

First up is our colleague, Jasmin Paris. 

At this stage, Jasmin probably needs no introduction. A mother, wife, vet, researcher and record-holding ultra-runner, she recently became the first female ever to win the 268 mile Montane Spine Race and in doing so, smashed the previous record by half a day.

She did all this while taking a ‘short break’ from writing her PhD thesis investigating why white blood cells become cancerous and what scientists can do to target them.

Taking on the Spine race was a challenge unlike any I had attempted before; a non-stop race for 268 miles in the darkness in winter, whilst navigating and carrying all my kit, it seemed a crazy undertaking. But at the same time I was drawn to it for exactly those reasons, there’s something about pushing your boundaries that is exhilarating, it brings discovery and the joy of being alive.

>> You can read a full interview with Jasmin on balancing work, family and running here

Second up is fifth year medical student, Hannah Thomas. 

As well as studying medicine at Edinburgh, Hannah is Chair of InciSioNUK, a student-led national working group on global surgery. Currently, they are coordinating an inclusive review of global health education in UK medical schools.

During her early university career, Hannah established foundational experiences campaigning for women’s socioeconomic development and reproductive rights. Noticing a gap in the discussions surrounding maternal healthcare as it pertains to surgery, she became involved with Lifebox, the leading international safe surgery charity.

Most recently Hannah led a project with GlobalSurg to analyse data from over 76 countries worldwide regarding implementation of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist. This was part of the GlobalSurg Collaborative and was recognised at the World Health Summit.

Championing global health initiatives through advocacy, education and research has been at the core of my passions during my medical training. At InciSioN UK, we strive to promote and collaborate with global surgery committees worldwide to strengthen awareness of safe surgery initiatives.

>> Visit the Students for Global Health website

Next please allow us to introduce you to Clinical Skills Facilitator, Lorraine Close.

Lorraine is a clinical skills facilitator which involves teaching and assessing clinical skills and resuscitation across all six years of the MBChB programme.

Lorraine is also co-director of Edinburgh Community Yoga, a not for profit that takes the therapeutic benefits of yoga to a wide range of people across Edinburgh, including women affected by trauma, military veterans and patients.

Her involvement in  this work came from an interest in health inequality and an interesting combination of working in a maximum security prison in Glasgow and a clinic in Bhopal, India that used yoga therapy.

Edinburgh Community Yoga’s projects focus on reducing social isolation, developing community and offering people the opportunity to reconnect with body and breath in the present moment through yoga, which is a challenge for many with mental health issues.

This year Lorraine will go on a travelling fellowship with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to study yoga not for profit around the world, with a view to developing sustainability within the organisation.

I believe that anyone who can breath and move can practice yoga and that we need to counter the dominant discourse that yoga is about expensive clothes and standing on your head. It is a practice that many people I work with never believed was for them because of the economic, social and health barriers, and through our work that is changing.

>> Visit the Edinburgh Community Yoga wesbite

Another inspiring medical student for you to meet, fourth year medical student, Jennifer Pewsey.

As well as studying Medicine at Edinburgh Jennifer is also a Year Representative on the Medical Students Council and Young Champion for Scottish mental health charity See Me.

Jennifer is recently back from taking a 2.5 year break from her studies after becoming unwell. Today she speaks very openly about living and working with borderline personality disorder and tries to use her own experiences to help others in similar situations.

She says “it’s so hard to recognise when you’re mentally unwell but I think the more people speak about it and normalise it, the easier it is to recognise when something is going wrong.”

Jennifer is a Young Champion for Scottish mental health charity See Me where she has helped to work on resources for young people to decrease stigma and promote mental wellbeing.

She has been heavily involved in developing the ‘What’s On Your Mind?’ campaign, which is a teaching resource for high schools, and the ‘It’s Okay’ campaign too.

Jennifer is very interested in the mental health of medical students and health care professionals and informally connects with others who struggle with their mental health to share advice.

Having a mental illness sucks, but there are ways to work with it and around it – it doesn’t mean your life is over. For the past few years I’ve tried to use my own experiences to help others in similar situations though various organisations and projects, and I’ve met so many incredible people along the way.

>> Watch Jennifer’s interview for Mental Health and Wellbeing Week 2018

>>Visit the SeeMe website

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