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Manchester medical students take unique theatre role

07 Nov 2016

Medics take part in public event at the B!RTH Festival

Birth public event

Medical students from the University played a unique role in the B!RTH theatre festival –  a series of theatrical events and debates through a partnership between the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Oglesby Charitable Trust.

Professor Mahesh Nirmalan, Vice Dean for Social Responsibility and Public Engagement at Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, is one of a number of academics and students who took part in B!RTH which shone a spotlight on global childbirth inequalities – an area which fits with our research beacon for addressing global inequalities.

Through an interactive workshop, students took the audience through the entire birth process using educational mannequins. This was followed by a student-run session on the global potential complications that can occur during childbirth and the different outcomes for women depending on where they live.  Finally, historical developments in delivery of babies were demonstrated using objects from the University’s Museum of Medicine and Health.

Led by Professor Nirmalan and mentored by Dr Ken Ma, Obstetrics and Gynaecology Doctor at the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Clarissa Hemmingsen, Medical Student and President of the Manchester Global Health Society, and Nikhita Handa, University of Manchester Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society, provided student leadership to create an incredibly informative and enjoyable public event.

Participants said: “This was a great way for students to share their knowledge together with hearing profound personal stories from the audience; it provided a perfect mix of expertise and lived experience.”

Professor Nirmalan said: “The B!RTH festival provided a unique opportunity to use art and theatre as a medium for communicating health messages that have National and International ramifications. The contributions made by the University students enhanced the credibility of this event.”

Clarissa said: “The B!RTH Festival was a unique opportunity for the Global Health Society to engage the public with medicine, education and the arts. Revealing advances in obstetric medicine right from the 1600s, it allowed discovery and discussion on what this means for mothers, their children and families in the UK and abroad, highlighting global inequalities in access to healthcare as a vital injustice requiring acknowledgement and immediate action.”

Nikhita said: “The event gave the students a deeper understanding of how fortunate we are in this country to have so many birth choices. From speaking to the public about their experiences and exploring the plays we see the international inequalities and would strive in our future careers to help bridge this gap.”

Partnering with The University of Manchester B!RTH also involved academics from humanitarian areas of the University, including Professors Mukesh Kapila, Tony Redmond, David Hulme and Dame Tina Lavender, and Dr Carol Bedwell, as well as others from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

B!RTH has commissioned seven plays by seven leading female playwrights from across the globe and took place at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester from 19-22 October, 2016.

The plays are available for free download and use anywhere in the world at:

Read more about the addressing global inequalities research beacon at: