The EBM+ School Volunteering Programme

At the beginning of 2017, we kicked off our EBM+ School Volunteering Programme – ‘Your Health, Your Evidence’. Now a few months down the line, let’s take a look back and see how it’s all been going…

This programme really started last September when we recruited and trained our UCL Student Volunteers in association with the UCL Volunteering Services Unit (VSU). At the same time, we recruited our partner schools – we now have 6 schools, 14 UCL volunteers and around 60 Key-stage-5 school students participating.

Our volunteers have been going into schools on a weekly basis and engaging with their school student groups through a series of workshops. The first session covers the core themes of EBM, how it should work, what’s wrong with current EBM approaches and how they can be improved (hence, EBM+). Following this, the programme really comes into its own by allowing the freedom to explore various topics jointly chosen by our volunteers and their student groups.


Workshop topics include (but not limited to): Mental Health; Anti-depressants; Diet; Eating Disorders; Food Supplements; Acne; Sexual Health, Contraception, Drug discovery & manufacturing; Cancer development & Treatments; health-related policy (e.g. NICE guidelines); Environmental health and disease causation; E-Cigarettes; Drug case studies (e.g. Thalidomide); Dealing with the complexity of the human body on an individual basis.

Our broad range of topics is a testament to the creativity of our volunteers and the curiosity of our school students. Topics stretch right across the inter-disciplinary spectrum from the philosophical to psychological, pharmacological, physiological, epidemiological, sociological, political and everything in-between.

The workshop formats are equally as varied. Each involves different kinds of ice-breakers, reading materials, thought experiments and group exercises such as role-playing (e.g. patient walks into a GP surgery) and debating. For example, one of group recently carried out an interesting debate on whether eating disorders could be caused by genetic or environmental/social factors. I believe the general conclusion was – “err…probably be a bit of both?”.


With these workshops drawing to a close, we are now moving to the next stages of the programme – the presentations. We’ve asked our student groups to present in front of a class/year group of their Key-stage-4 peers. The format of these presentations is pretty straightforward. Talk about EBM, the Volunteering Programme, a specific workshop topic and – based on the skills and knowledge one can gain – why students should do it next year!

These presentations serve multiple purposes. 1) To spread our impact and engagement with schools as far as we can. 2) To provide a great opportunity for the school students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they’ve learnt over the course of the programme – i.e. critical thinking, analytical skills, communication, organisation, team work and public speaking. 3) To act as a prime recruitment tool for next year’s programme, which we aim to be bigger and better. 4) To prepare the students for presenting at the ‘Your Health, Your Health’ Conference in May, in front of an audience of approximately 100 people, including leading figures in the world of EBM.

Conference: Your Health, Your Evidence 2017 #YHYE2017

And now for the conference (which I could not be more excited for).  This will be held in the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre in University College London – the same lecture theatre that Christopher Nolan famously used in his film, Inception (see below).


The conference is on 3rd May, 1 – 5pm with a soft drinks reception in the north cloisters. Now for good stuff…

Keynote Speaker: Professor David Healy – A Psychiatrist and Psychopharmacologist from Cardiff University. David has written more than 150 peer-reviewed articles, 200 other articles, and 20 books, including Let Them Eat Prozac (2004) and Pharmageddon (2012). David also has a widely-viewed lecture on Youtube called, ‘Time to abandon evidence based medicine?’

Keynote Speaker (EBM+): Professor Mike Kelly – recently retired Director of the Centre for Public Health at the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) where he led teams producing public health guidelines.  While at NICE he appeared regularly on the Today Programme and BBC, ITV and Sky Television. Mike is one of the Lead organisers of the EBM+ consortium.

School Presentations: Each of our Key Stage 5 school groups will present at the conference, talking about the programme, a specific workshop topic and taking a few questions at the end. These presentations provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the skills and knowledge the students have acquired over the course of the programme.

Volunteer Panel: To end the conference, a number of our volunteers will be participating in a panel focusing on Volunteering at University. It’s important we hear about the programme and volunteering more generally from those who actually went to schools and carried out the workshops.

Get Involved!

School students – if you are interested in Medicine, health, science, and/or evidence more generally and wish to pursue something related to this at university or as a career, then this programme is for you. Don’t underestimate how much this kind of volunteering programme will boost your UCAS application, interview confidence and personal development.

University students – Those studying degrees in medicine, biomed, education, science, STS, history, philosophy, all are welcome! Volunteering opportunities come in all shapes and sizes but a programme that provides this unique balance of structure and freedom is hard to come by. I cannot emphasise enough the transferable skills this provides to someone entering the job market. You will be able to build a meaningful relationship with your school over a number of weeks, helping your students develop a rational perspective towards clinical evidence so as to ensure they never take their own healthcare decisions for granted.

Teachers – Those working in education who want their students to feel more informed when faced with clinical evidence whilst able to discuss ‘sensitive’ issues, such as sexual health, from a completely neutral angle. We invite you to contact us if you want to be a partner school involved with this programme.

If you are a student at school or at university and wish to take part in our School Volunteering Programme, ‘Your Health, Your Evidence’ 2018, please get in touch!