Category Archives: Disability and Illness

Issues facing those with both long and short term disabilities and illnesses which impact their ability to work or study at Newcastle University.

NUMed10: A Milestone of Excellence  

“We truly have a community that is both diverse and inclusive at NUMed, and we are incredibly humbled that so many have come to be with us to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We anticipate what the future holds as we continue to develop our role in medical education in Malaysia and across the world,”

– Prof. Chris Baldwin, the Provost & Chief Executive Officer of NUMed

On 21st September 2019, Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) turned 10. Since welcoming its first cohort of students in September 2009, this first international branch campus of Newcastle University has been delivering exceptional medical education in Malaysia, extending the legacy to the Southeast Asian region. NUMed’s global community of students, faculty, staff and alumni convened to celebrate this momentous milestone, which was marked by a medley of local cultural performances and moving speeches by international and local leaders in education. Prof. Baldwin imparted his thoughts on what he observed were the makings of NUMed’s success: the excellence of all its staff, both academic and professional; the cooperation between NUMed, Newcastle University, UK, and NUMed’s partners in Malaysia; and the openness and collegiality of the NUMed community, whether international or local.

The Founding Provost and Chief Executive Officer of NUMed, Professor Reginald Jordan, spoke fondly of his experience: “Having seen the NUMed project through the early development stages, our move to the region marked the culmination of much hard work. It was a most exciting, if somewhat daunting, prospect, with the challenge being to translate the planning blueprint into reality and to fully realise the NUMed vision.”

Fast forward ten years, and the FMS EDI Team and the School of Medical Education Academic EDI Lead have been proud to support colleagues at NUMed to form their own EDI committee comprising 11 members of staff, a mixture of PS and academic staff plus two students. The team at Malaysia took the initiative to hold discussions with their counterparts in Reading and Southampton prior to setting up the EDI committee. These two campuses, along with Nottingham and Herriot-Watt, do not have local EDI committees, as a result NUMed has been a trailblazer, as the first campus in the region to look at EDI from a local perspective.

The over-riding principles for EDI work at NUMed are not around replicating what is currently in place in Newcastle but ensuring that the work is relevant for Malaysia. In deciding on the priorities for EDI at NUMed, members of the EDI committee attended an event in February 2019 held at the British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce where the keynote speech around EDI was delivered by the Deputy Minister for Women, Family and Community. In this speech the four key EDI areas for the Malaysian government were highlighted i.e. gender, race, disability and language and it is these areas that the EDI committee have taken as the cornerstone of their current work.

We are proud of the role that NUMed plays in the success of the Faculty and the University. As Prof. Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Global, of Newcastle University noted, “The real strength of NUMed lies in the talented and passionate people of the university with shared affinity, ambition, and dedication. With that, there is no doubt that the best is yet to come.”



FMS EDI Week Programme: 21st-25th January 2019

FMS is holding its very first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Week – why not come along and get involved?

We are holding the Faculty’s first EDI Week for our staff and students to celebrate our recent Athena SWAN Silver Award for our work towards gender equality. There will be a range of activities and events that not only reflect on our recent achievement, but consider where we go from here in order to provide more inclusive work and study environments that give everyone equal opportunity to succeed.

Take a look at what is on, and book early! We hope to see you at one of our events!


21st January:

  • Why does EDI matter? – 12-1pm, The Boardroom
    We launch the week by hearing from members of the senior leadership team about why EDI is important to our Faculty and the people who work and study here. Read more and register.
  • EDI and TechNET – 1-2pm, The Boardroom
    Members of our technicians network talk about how EDI is central to the work that they do both in the Faculty and across the University. Read more and register.
  • How to embed EDI in the Professional Pathway? – 2-3pm, The Boardroom
    Our Director of Faculty Operations, Katharine Rogers, will talk about the new professional pathway and how EDI is being embedded into its development. Read more and register.

22nd January:

  • EDI at NUMed Malaysia – 10-11am, Leech L2.9
    Come and meet Chris Baldwin, CEO and Provost at NUMed, to find out more about their approach to EDI in Malaysia. Read more and register.
  • Mindfulness – 12.30-1.30pm, Leech L2.8
    An introductory session led by our very own Michael Atkinson. Read more and register.
  • EDI Bites: What is Athena SWAN? – 12-1pm, The Boardroom
    Our EDI Team explains what Athena SWAN is, what our Silver Award means, and what our plans are for progressing gender equality over the next four years. Read more and register.
  • Athena SWAN: An institutional perspective – 3-4pm, The Boardroom
    Judith Rankin, the Dean of EDI, will talk about the university’s application for a Silver Award renewal, which will be submitted in April. Read more and register.

23rd January:

  • EDI design principles for FMS  – 12-2pm, Colin Ingram Seminar Room (IoN)
    Jane Richards and the Good to Great (G2G) Team hold an interactive session to hear your views about how EDI should guide FMS in the future. Read more and register.
  • Why should we become conscious of our Unconscious Biases? – 2-3pm, Leech L2.2
    Tom Smulders and the IoN EDI Team run an introductory session about unconscious bias and how to combat it. Read more and register.

24th January:

  • EDI Lunchtime Fair – 12-2pm, the Atrium/Entrance to the Medical School
    For staff and postgraduates to find out more about different networks, mentoring schemes, support for wellbeing, and get a chance to speak to EDI representatives. Light bites provided. Please register your interest for catering purposes.
  • Athena SWAN Celebration & Unveiling – 12.45, Entrance to the Medical School
    The Pro-Vice Chancellor of FMS, David Burn, will unveil the Faculty’s Athena SWAN Silver Award to mark the achievement that the award represents.

25th January:

  • ‘For Families’ Launch Event  – 10.30am-12pm, David Shaw Lecture Theatre
    Event jointly hosted by NU Women and NU Parents to launch NU’s new family-friendly initiative, update on its progress, set out plans for the future and take feedback and questions. Read more and register.
  • Friday Fizz and Feedback – 4-5pm, The Atrium
    Join the Faculty EDI team for a glass of celebratory fizz and tell us what you thought of our first EDI Week, or what you’d like to see next year at EDI Week 2020! Bucks fizz and non-alcoholic sparkling provided. Register your interest for catering purposes here.

FMS EDI Week 21st-25th January – save the date!

FMS will be holding its very first EDI Week from the 21st – 25th of January – why not get involved?

The week is firstly to celebrate our successes so far, with the unveiling of our Athena SWAN silver award, which recognises our achievements in promoting and progressing gender equality for all staff and students. However, as well as reflecting how far we have come, we will also be thinking about what we would like to achieve, and will be running a number of events and activities that staff and students can get involved with.

Although we are still confirming some events (final programme to be announced early January), we have some already pencilled in and you can get the times into your diary now!

21st January:

  • Launch Event – 12-1pm,
    “Why does EDI matter?” – hear from staff about why EDI matters to them.
  • EDI and the Professional Pathway – 2-3pm,
    Katherine Rogers, Director of Faculty Operations

22nd January:

  • EDI Bitesize: “What is Athena SWAN?” – 2-3pm
    Candy Rowe, Director of EDI for FMS will explain what Athena SWAN is and what it means for the Faculty.
  • Athena SWAN Silver for Newcastle University – 3-4pm
    Judith Rankin, Dean of Diversity will talk about the work currently going on to renew the University’s institutional Silver Athena SWAN Award.
  • Wellbeing Session – lunchtime (TBC)
    Session hosted by Michael Atkinson on mindfulness.

23rd January:

  • EDI Design Principles for FMS  – 12-2pm
    Jane Richards and the Good to Great (G2G) Team will run a session about embedding EDI into faculty working in the future.

24th January:

  • EDI Fair – 12-2pm
    A fair to showcase information and get a chance to speak to the EDI Team, representatives from different staff/PGR networks, and the ECR Mentoring Scheme.
  • Athena SWAN Celebration & Unveiling – lunchtime (TBC)
    PVC of FMS, David Burn, will unveil the Faculty’s Athena SWAN Silver Award and celebrate the incredible work and achievement the award symbolises.

25th January:

  • ‘For Families’ Launch Event  – 10am – 12pm
    Event jointly hosted by NU Women and NU Parents. It will provide information on NU’s new family-friendly initiative, update on progress, set out plans for the future and take feedback and questions.

Be Kind: Living with a Hidden Disability

This month, as part of UK Disability History Month (22nd November – 22nd December) and International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3rd  December), we’re focusing on disability.

In the UK today, there are 13.3 million people living with disabilities. For many of these people, you wouldn’t know they have a disability just by looking at them. They don’t use a wheelchair, or crutches, or hearing aids. Yet their condition continues to affect their quality of life just as significantly, leaving them in constant pain or making simple day-to-day tasks very difficult. These disabilities are known as ‘hidden’, ‘invisible’, or ‘unseen disabilities’.

For many effected by a hidden disability, they are often ignorantly and unfairly labelled as “attention-seeking” or “imagining it” by those who do not understand the impact of these conditions on a person’s daily life.

To help you understand what it’s like to live with a hidden disability, a member of staff has written a personal account about their experiences:

“You’re not old enough to have arthritis?”

“You wouldn’t know you have arthritis – you look fine!”

If I had a pound for every time these things have been said to me, I would be very wealthy.

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) when I was 25, in 1996. Just to get to a point of diagnosis was a struggle. It took 18 months of recurrent visits to my GP with pains and stiffness in different parts of my body, being told there was nothing wrong with me, to the point that I believed I was imagining the symptoms before the Rheumatoid Factor decided to show itself in my blood results.

A diagnosis was a massive mental milestone, as I could finally put a label on what was wrong with me. Following diagnosis, it was a further six months before I crept to the top of the waiting list and was able to see a consultant, by which time my weight had dropped dramatically, several of my joints were painfully swollen, and I struggled to complete mundane tasks such as making a cup of tea or doing up some buttons. Finally getting a treatment plan was another milestone and then the realisation of a lifetime of hidden, chronic pain slowly began to dawn.

RA is like being on a never-ending rollercoaster – I do not have pain free days, but some days are better than others. Also, I constantly feel tired. Chronic fatigue (a little-known symptom of RA) is a most unwelcome guest when looking after a young family and elderly parents.

I take a whole host of medication, both daily and weekly. The weekly medication is not pleasant and is not something I relish taking every Sunday evening. Yet, like many people with hidden conditions, I carry on, as I’m determined that this condition, although limiting how I live some aspects of my life, will never defeat me.

I do not say all this to garner sympathy. I do not, and never want to be, defined by my RA, and the last thing I want is to be pitied. Having lived with chronic pain for over 20 years, I have found workarounds for everyday activities, so that only those closest to me know when I’m having a bad day.

Around 1% of the population in the UK has RA, and this is only one of a number of conditions where a person’s illness, limitations and pain remain hidden. Being diagnosed with RA turned my life upside down, but despite this I have learned some very valuable lessons and now, more than ever, realise the importance of being kind, patient and understanding, as we can never automatically know the challenges family, friends and colleagues face in their everyday life.

So please do not judge. Instead:

  • Be kind to the person who is walking too slowly for your liking.
  • Be kind to the person in the supermarket who asks for help to reach something on the shelf.
  • Be kind to the person who appears able-bodied who has sat in an accessible seat on the train.
  • Be kind to your colleague who is too tired to interact.
  • Be kind to your friend who cancels a night out at the last minute.

Be kind, as you can never know the journey people are on and the barriers they have overcome (whether RA or another hidden condition) to get where they are today.

To find out more about hidden disabilities, please visit the Invisible Disabilities Association’s webpage. Or, email us at to find out how you can get support, or help support others.

The Disability Interest Group (DIG)

The Disability Interest Group (DIG) is for anyone who wants to help promote a positive, safe and respectful environment for disabled students, staff and visitors. It’s a joint network, open to all disabled and non-disabled staff and students at Newcastle University.

Today (22nd of November) marks the first day of UK Disability History Month, which focuses on the history of people with disability’s struggle for equality and human rights in the UK. This month includes International Day of People with Disabilities (3rd of December), which is the day that the DIG is hosting their celebratory event, to highlight and celebrate the successes of this year and to update people on what is coming up in 2019. The event will also include a talk by Liam Isaac, NUSU¹s Inclusive Sport Officer about his great work in improving access and inclusion in University sport. The event will run 12-2pm in the courtyard, and lunch will be provided. Please book here.

To find out more about the DIG and the work they’ve been doing, I spoke to Richard Boggie, Assistant Director for HR strategy and member of the DIG committee.

Why was the DIG formed?

The network was relaunched in October 2017, with Jackie Leach Scully as Chair. We were inspired by the success of other networks, such as NU Women, and by the increased interest across the board in staff networks and EDI in general. We wanted to ensure disability issues weren’t going to be forgotten or left behind in this shift, and so we relaunched the DIG. Importantly, as part of this relaunch, we redesigned the network to be not just for people with disabilities, but also for allies.

Why did you join the DIG?

I’ve always been involved with the DIG before it was relaunched. I wanted to use my background in HR to help affect change, and from a professional point of view, I wanted to know if things weren’t working for those with disabilities. But also, from the point of view of a disabled person, I wanted to feel as though the University is doing all it can to make the experience inclusive and accessible for everyone.

For me, the network is about having a safe space to discuss openly the issues affecting me, so that I can seek help, as well as helping others facing similar issues.

What do you feel the DIG is important?

Above all, we want the DIG to be a safe, supportive environment. For many of our members, they are the only disabled person working in a unit or in their peer group, which can be a lonely experience. The DIG helps these people to feel as though they are not alone, and to talk to others who’ve had similar experiences and have worked out how best to deal with them. For this reason, a large part of our network is based around signposting to access support and advice.

Although our membership represents a large range of disabilities, we often have similar experiences, so are able to have a joke as well as share what is troubling us, because it’s a safe environment. It is also good to bring together a range of different disabilities, to learn about them and highlight common issues.

Finally, we’re also a resource for others. If individuals or departments want help with disability issues, we have members that can advise them. We can also talk directly to University services to make changes. For example, if we’re informed something is going wrong in an area such as estates, we can go directly to them to talk about it.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the things the network has been doing this year?

The work we’re probably most proud of this year is the adjustments we’ve helped make to the recruitment and induction process for staff, as it will benefit so many staff members. We feel this was done in a really inclusive way, by holding workshops and focus groups with our members, in which we looked at their experiences and what they hoped the process would look like to develop actions to improve the experiences of staff joining the University in future.

We have also felt extremely supported by the University this year. We secured funding from the EDI Fund and from Student Wellbeing for a live captioning service for University events and talks, which is currently being trialled. One of our committee also bid for some money to create some more representative images of staff and student diversity at NU for use on University communications and the website. If you’d like to volunteer to participate in this photography, please contact Becca Wilson.

We’ve also been able to take forward issues raised by our members to the committees we sit on and make important changes, such as ensuring all accessible toilets have working emergency cords.

Where you might see the network going in the future?

This year, we’re hoping to build on the success of our first year by growing our membership and running more events for all members to attend. In particular, we’d like to focus on running more positive, celebratory events. So far, we’ve done a lot which looks at what we can improve and change within the University, so now we’d like to think about what has been successful and celebrate this. This is what we intend our event on the 3rd of December to be.

I also hope that DIG will be able to influence University policy properly, in particular on recruitment and induction, and on accessibility at events. We’re also looking to work with the student disability society (Disability and Neurodiversity Society) to influence student issues.

If you’re staff or student with a disability, or an ally, and you’re interested in getting involved with the DIG, visit our intranet page to find out more about them. You can also follow them on Twitter, or join their mailing list. Their celebratory event will be hosted on the 3rd of December, so sign up to come along!