The recent start of the Covid-19 Inquiry is a reminder that we have a lot to learn from our experience of the pandemic. The lessons identified by the inquiry will hopefully inform our response to any future challenges.
University of Birmingham staff played a major role in both providing frontline care and life-saving support, and in driving forward our understanding of the disease. Our academics have been involved in more than 100 clinical papers relating to Covid-19; play a key part in the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium; and we are also leading the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium(COG-UK). Launched in March 2020, the COG-UK project partners academic institutions with NHS and Public Health Agencies to deliver large scale, rapid sequencing of samples from patients with confirmed cases of the virus.
As well as our national collaborations and partnerships, we have also been working on a global level to encourage learning, reflection and debate on the impact of the pandemic among University students and early career researchers. Working with eight international partners within the European University for Well-being (EUniWell) consortium, in July we co-led a EUniWell summer school on the impact of Covid-19 on European health and well-being.
This was a very stimulating experience, bringing together the brightest and the best students from our European universities with cutting-edge researchers and practitioners. We have shown just how beneficial international engagement can be, forging new relationships across all levels which can only be beneficial for the health and well-being of European citizens."Professor Rachel Jordan - Institute for Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham
Hosted by our partner the University of Leiden, the course brought together students, researchers and healthcare practitioners to share expertise and discuss a broad range of topics from social media communication through to its impact on healthcare workers and planning for future pandemics, viewed from the perspective of different European countries. The course was really well received by all participants, as evidenced by the excellent feedback.
Professor Rachel Jordan, Institute for Applied Health Research comments: “Altogether this was a very stimulating experience, bringing together the brightest and the best students from our European Universities with cutting edge researchers and practitioners. We have shown just how beneficial international engagement can be, forging new relationships across all levels which can only be beneficial for the health and wellbeing of European citizens. I know that the staff enjoyed seeing how engaged the students were and it sets a standard for future courses!”
Gabriella Morley, a PhD student at the University of Birmingham, has a particular interest in preventing infectious disease. She says the EUniWell summer school was one of the highlights of her time as a student. Learning from expert speakers from the world of science, academia and public policy gave her and other participants a strong foundation of knowledge to support their discussions on preparing for the next pandemic.
Gabriella comments: “The summer school was not only intellectually stimulating, it was also a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded students from across Europe. I felt incredibly fortunate to be part of such an interesting, diverse and engaging group of people and I look forward to being friends and colleagues in future.”
Pharmacy student Shane Kailla felt that the summer school gave him an “unrivalled insight into the differing ways nations dealt with a common threat.” Shane adds that spending time with like-minded students with a breadth of knowledge underlined “the importance of shared education from such a generation-defining event and the positive actions we can do to learn for the future.”
And it was not just the students who learned from the experience. Dr Shamil Haroon, Associate Clinical Professor in Public Health at the University of Birmingham, enjoyed hearing the perspectives from across Europe, and valued a chance to hear about how different countries responded to the pandemic.