• Alia Shaaban

The Breast Project: First National Medical Student Breast Society

The Breast Project is the first UK-wide scheme created to enhance breast education in medical school and inspire the next generation of aspiring surgeons to consider breast surgery as a future career. Having had one week of breast surgery experience as a third-year medical student, I met a breast surgeon who inspired me to consider her specialty for the first time. I wanted to learn more about the career and connect with other like-minded students. However, there were no breast societies for medical students in the country that I could join. Something needed to change.

Having successfully affiliated the first breast society within the Bristol University Medical School in September of 2019, I encountered an underlying issue that stopped students from attending our events. Breast, as a specialty is hardly highlighted in medical school curriculums, therefore many students overlook it as a potential career, resulting in a lack of motivation to attend breast surgery events. I also learned that many breast surgeons all over the UK want to share their passion for this specialty with students but do not have the platform with which to do so.

The Breast Project is the solution to this problem. Medical teaching has a new place in the online space and want to capitalise on this. Students who want to attend teaching events or careers talks will no longer be restricted by geographical location or the lack of an official breast society at their university. They can be connected to the core of breast surgery at medical student level with the click of a button. We surveyed 60 Bristol medical students in the clinical years to get an understanding of their perceptions of breast surgery. We found that 43% of students felt they had not received enough breast teaching in order to pass their exams, with 12% receiving no teaching at all. Only 24% of students felt that they had enough/good clinical exposure to breast surgery with 43% having none. Overall, students want more teaching regarding the theory and practice of breast medicine.

Despite objectively insufficient breast exposure, 44% of students had still considered breast surgery as a potential career. However, the overwhelming majority of students (86%) do not know where they could get more information about the career or who to contact with regards acquiring mentorship. We believe this is an important pain point in which the specialty loses potential recruits. The Breast Project would serve to follow-up the budding interest in the specialty before it is lost. We know that one of the key drivers behind choosing a particular specialty comes from medical school exposure, so it is vital that we address this issue. Ultimately, 83% of students who took part in the survey would be interested in a nationwide platform for breast teaching and career insights. With the help of regional representatives within ABS (association of breast surgery) and medical school champions, we have the ability to cast the net wide to recruit doctors all over the UK to share their highly desirable knowledge and experience via this new platform.

As part of The Breast Project’s aim to start promoting this amazing career much earlier on in a future surgeon’s career, we have obtained unlimited student access to one of the most highly sought after Breast Surgery Careers Day events. This event is run by ABS and The Mammary Fold (the breast society for breast trainees). Usually to access this event you need to be an ABS member, which is difficult for students as you need official sign off from two current ABS members in order to join. However, now medical students across the nation can tune in at the click of a button. During this event (Tuesday 16th February 2021), we will be hearing from top breast surgeons about the career and how to get more involved from medical school stage to stand you in the best possible stead for your successful future. This is the first of many eye-opening events in which medical students can be welcomed with open arms to such an incredible specialty.

Link below to get tickets to the event on the 16th and check out Bristol Breast project on facebook.