The non-profit Crisis Rescue Foundation is helping medical students in war zones continue their studies in the face of extreme adversity. Founder and director Dr Sharon Raymond, GP, tells us more.

MDU: Tell us about Crisis Rescue Foundation and its work.

Dr Sharon Raymond: Crisis Rescue Foundation was established in spring 2020. We're guided by our motto of 'Dream It! Do It!', and our goal has been to fill the gaps in healthcare during crises, both in the UK and abroad, with a focus on inequalities of health.

We've established various novel services and initiatives, including the distribution of tens of thousands of items of PPE to key NHS and allied services at the height of the COVID pandemic, a patient transport service to reduce pressures on the ambulance service, a dedicated biker service delivering oxygen measuring devices to patients' homes across London (about 5,000 devices delivered so far!), and the Vaxi Taxi/Health and Wellbeing Pop-Up Project, with around 40 pop-ups in the hearts of communities across London so far, including at foodbanks, homeless shelters, youth clubs, drug and alcohol, and refugee centres. We've also provided support for frontline clinicians in Uganda, India, Ukraine and Sudan during times of crisis.

MDU: In particular, what's the Ukraine Medical School UK Elective Programme?

SR: Since April 2022, the Crisis Rescue Foundation Ukraine Medical School UK Elective Programme has been supporting Ukraine medical students, whose studies have been halted or severely disrupted due to the war, as well as qualified Ukrainian doctors seeking access to medical education, located both in Ukraine and displaced globally. The programme offers medical education, including disaster medicine, peer support and wellbeing sessions, delivered by a team of expert doctors and medical educators primarily working in the UK.

Our recent survey showed that 63% of students have stayed in Ukraine for their medical studies, and nearly 90% of our students would return to Ukraine after the war, thanks to CRF lectures.

We have around 250 registered lecturers in the CRF team and are currently in our fourth term. We have been running full days of lectures every Tuesday and Thursday during term time. We've also run a face-to-face OSCE-style PLAB training day with the support of key stakeholders, including the MDU, BMA and the GMC, at BMA House in March 2023, with a focus on the educational needs of doctors from Ukraine displaced to the UK. A further face-to-face training day is planned for the winter.

As well as this, the programme has supported around 50 clinical placements for Ukraine trainee and qualified doctors at UK GP surgeries and other services. We hope to grow this offer to support more colleagues displaced to the UK and who are planning to work here clinically.

As well as partnering with the MDU, we have been supported by a number of organisations, including the UK Medical Schools Council, the National Brain Appeal Small Acorns Fund, the Ukrainian Medical Association of the United Kingdom, Bogomolets National Medical University in Kyiv, the Ukrainian Medical Students' Association, RefuAid, the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association.

MDU: What has the programme achieved so far?

SR: Since our establishment, we've received over 21,000 overwhelmingly positive feedback responses from students, and over 1,000 students are now registered for Term 4, which began on 9 May 2023. We are delivering about 100 lectures per term.

Quantitative data to date has confirmed that 99.9% of respondents' topic knowledge has improved due to lectures, and over 98% have rated lectures as 'excellent' or 'good'.

Our aim includes helping to limit the 'brain drain' of clinicians, which is often observed to be a consequence of war. Our recent survey showed that 63% of students have stayed in Ukraine for their medical studies, and nearly 90% of our students would return to Ukraine after the war, thanks to CRF lectures.

MDU: What are CRF's aims for the future?

SR: My goal is to ensure that we continue to deliver and grow our offers of regular, high-quality medical education in a supportive environment, both online and face-to-face. We also want to keep offering clinical placement opportunities to help trainee and qualified doctors impacted by war - and the institutions and services they study and work at - to bridge the gap at a time of great upheaval and trauma.

MDU: How can healthcare professionals in the UK support the CRF's work?

SR: We welcome the support of colleagues in our goal to fill the gaps in healthcare and address inequalities through our various services and initiatives, and are always looking for ways to develop new projects that can help in this field.

We invite all doctors, as well as other healthcare professionals and medical educators interested in delivering medical lectures and/or peer and wellbeing support, to sign up to deliver sessions as part of our growing CRF team of lecturers. All medical students and doctors are eligible to join our Programme, although we don't currently run a programme for dental students.

We're also keen to enhance clinical placement opportunities across the UK, and look forward to working with healthcare organisations with this goal in mind. Colleagues can contact CRF via our website, or contact me directly on or by WhatsApp on 07780 813 409.

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Working together

The MDU's head of advisory services, Dr Udvitha Nandasoma, will provide lecture support as part of CRF's Elective programme.

"We are extremely proud to be supporting the vital work of the CRF Medical School UK Elective programme," he says. "Medical school is challenging enough without having to complete your studies from another country because of war or poverty in your home nation. The work Sharon and colleagues are doing to ensure students can keep studying is fantastic and we are honoured to be involved."

The MDU previously announced it was waiving the first year of membership subscriptions for doctors fleeing conflict in war zones, such as Ukraine, who come to practise in the UK.

This page was correct at publication on 10/07/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.