Children turned out in their hundreds on Wednesday for the Royal London Hospital’s second ever pathology open day.
About 500 pupils from east London schools, as well as medical students from London universities, congregated at the Royal London’s old library in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, to learn about the study of disease from a number of professionals.
Experts in fields from skin cancer to haemophilia were on hand to give presentations to members of the public and talk to them about what working in pathology is like.
Professor Rino Cerio, who spearheaded the operation, said it was the second year that Barts and the London NHS trust, who run the Royal London, had held such an event. “We are trying to encourage the wonder and enthusiasm of going into the sciences,” he said.
Uptake for physics, biology and chemistry courses has fallen in recent years, and Professor Cerio hopes that if young people see the wide spectrum of opportunities available to them, they will foster a passion for science.
Medical students from the Royal London guided tours around stalls and presentations offering information about prostate cancer, AIDS and the impact of smoking.
The hospital’s Doniach Gallery was also opened up so that curious members of the public could go and see the deformed skeleton of Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man, as well as a variety of pickled organs and skeletons demonstrating the effects of rare diseases.
A unique interactive exhibition called the Centre of the Cell – the only scientific, educational experience of its kind in the country – was also open for youngsters to explore.
Lorraine McAndrew, a nurse specialising in melanoma treatment at the Royal London, said she was surprised at how attentive and curious the visitors had been. “It’s amazing how interested the schoolchildren are,” she said. “I can’t remember being quite so fascinated at such a young age.”
Stewart Downing, a 21-year old London-based medical student, said he thought the open day was a good way to get young people interested in becoming doctors, but noted that medicine was already a highly oversubscribed career path. “I think it’s a great idea, but it needs to be put in the broader context of science if we want more young people to take up science subjects,” he said.