The Butterfly Effect - How Biomedicine Students are Giving Back

We caught up with three inspiring Bachelor of Biomedicine students to discuss how they have responded to online learning, and the unique projects they have undertaken during 2020.

Tutorials begin with the click of a button on a computer screen. Tutors’ voices are heard through headphones, dropping in and out and lagging slightly. Group projects are organised over Zoom meetings, using information gathered from the digital library. Makeshift studies are set up in the bedroom, on the dining table or by the kitchen. Sound familiar?

This is the new normal for students studying a Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne. Despite having to grow accustomed to this unfamiliar routine, some Biomedicine students have decided to use this time in creative ways for the betterment of the world around them.

We caught up with three of these inspiring students to discuss how they have responded to online learning, and the unique projects they have undertaken this year. Although 2020 has been challenging, these students have discovered the power of collective unity and the value of giving back to the community.

Nicholas Critchley - Royal Melbourne Hospital

Majoring in human structure and function, third year Biomedicine  student Nicholas Critchley is well on his way to achieving his goal of following a surgical career pathway in Medicine. As a ward clerk at the Royal Melbourne hospital, Nicolas has been greatly impacted by COVID-19, as he has learnt to adapt to new protocols and to working with new people.

Student army

"I have worked with a wide variety of people in other professions, such as paramedics and Victoria Police when at the public housing lockdown. Having more clinical engagement has been amazing, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot," Nicholas said.

"Typically my work is mostly document management and since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve gotten to converse with clinical staff in a very different setting."

Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) has become the norm for Nicholas and his coworkers. Standard hospital protocol involves wearing both a mask and a face shield (pictured).

"When we were doing elected testing in the public housing facility during the lockdown, we had to wear a gown, gloves, face shield and mask. You have to try and fix it every time you move because you can’t have anything uncovered," he said.

Nicholas' advice is to ‘take any opportunity to help if it’s what you love to do, because it is truly an amazing experience and I have enjoyed, almost, every second of it."

Katherine Wang - Creativity to spark joy

Katherine Wang

Katherine Wang has found that the move to studying online this year has been better than she could have anticipated, as she has learnt to redefine the ways she stays productive and active.

"Eliminating all of life’s external noise and stimuli really helped me to put a lot of things into perspective. I think it allowed me to re-ground and remind myself of my goals, ambitions and what I

want to achieve," Katherine said.

"What I’ve realised is that we all adapt a lot better than we think we can, by working with what we have. Our everyday behaviours and choices are moulded by the habits we form. I quickly realised that I don’t need the gym to stay active, nor a library to be able to study."

During her free time, she has decided to begin a new hobby - painting. Alongside this, she began working as a volunteer tutor for the Australian Cancer and Health Sciences Competition (ACHSC). The combination of  her interest in studying cancer research and her newfound hobby caused her to reconsider how she can use her time most effectively.

"I set up a little page on Instagram called ‘Our Humble Bubble Project’ where I decided to sell some of these paintings and donate the money to Peter MacCallum Cancer Research. I started to realise how powerful giving back is, not only for others, but also for myself. It makes me feel empowered, challenged and purposeful."

Emma Launder - Fruit for the Front Line Workers

Alfred foundation

Bachelor of Biomedicine student Emma Launder keeps herself busy when she isn’t studying neuroscience in her role as an Operations Team Member for not-for-profit organisation Halad to Health. With the objective of closing the gap in global health inequality, Halad to Health runs preventative health education missions to some of the most disadvantaged communities in the Philippines. In light of the current travel bans, the team at Halad to Health had to develop an innovative way to redirect funds towards a new social cause. They generously decided to support the Royal Alfred Hospital front line healthcare workers in celebration of International Nurses Day.

"The idea for International Nurses Day came about because I was liaising with The Alfred Foundation and from talking to them we were thinking we could do something to help the wellbeing of the healthcare workers. So we were able to make a donation of $6000 to The Alfred Foundation across the three hospital campuses.

"The staff, especially if they’re working really long shifts, don’t have a lot of energy. So, we did a fruit run, which meant that the healthcare workers were able to receive a free fruit salad for over a month at the three locations," explained Emma.

"It was truly rewarding to see photos of smiling Alfred staff with fresh fruit salads during their shift breaks - it might have only been a brief moment in their busy and challenging schedules, but I was happy to have been a small part of that."

Emma has found that staying motivated through isolation has been difficult, and that the pandemic has definitely impacted her flow of study, as she misses the beautiful Parkville campus and studying in a quiet library, coffee in hand. However, she has discovered that volunteering for a greater cause has helped her maintain perspective and stay motivated.

These students have shown adaptability, generosity and resourcefulness over the course of this challenging year. We would like to share their admirable approach to dealing with difficult circumstances with our readership at the School of Biomedical Sciences, reminding us of the butterfly effect - that small individual efforts can produce limitless positive outcomes.

"COVID-10 has given us a chance to experience the power of solidarity, and hopefully that is a sentiment to carry forward," concludes Katherine.

Written by Annabel Hunt-Smith