Second year student Antoine Awad calls for a student body that reflects multiple backgrounds and experiences
Being a choreographer and performer allowed me to feel safe expressing myself. I was involved in environments that were safe, diverse, and supportive of my multi-layered identity. Starting my journey in physiotherapy in September 2020 distanced me from my inclusive network which made the first year of my MSc a challenging one.
Due to the pandemic, students were split into groups and expected to stick to their bubbles. That limited the diversity of the environment that I was constantly interacting with. As an Egyptian-Lebanese who belongs to the LGBTQIA+ community, the structure amplified my experience of being ‘othered’ which can hinder my professional and personal development. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the make-up of the student body reflects multiple backgrounds which in the future will translate into the healthcare system.
With that comes a great responsibility to constantly reflect on how the local rules affect a diverse community. For example, at Brunel University the uniform policy was updated so that ‘any female student who identifies as non-binary or who may be transitioning will not be expected to wear a bra when undressing for upper limb/spinal practical classes’. That was announced along with how students are expected to respond professionally to this. These policy changes are small but essential steps towards the bigger change and have a bigger effect when coming from the people in power.
As one of the new Student Reference Group’s equity, diversity and belonging officers,
I plan to represent people from my community and engage fellow marginalised students in the conversation. Hopefully I can then have a greater impact by working collaboratively with the professional body towards a more diverse physiotherapy community.
Antoine Awad is a MSc student at Brunel University and equity, diversity and belonging officer on the CSP’s Student Reference Group
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