LSHTM puts EDI into practice: Zoë's story

A scholarship at LSHTM allowed Zoë to pursue a MSc Medical Microbiology and contribute to healthcare. Zoë shares how the opportunity changed her future and how LSHTM is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and widening participation.
Zoë Collier-Hedley

Where and what did you study before joining LSHTM?

Before joining LSHTM, I studied at the University of Reading where I obtained an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science. I studied a variety of modules but this is where my particular interest in microbiology peaked and ultimately inspired me to apply to LSHTM.

What barriers have you faced during your education?

Throughout my education, I have experienced both financial and health-related barriers. In my second year of university I was plagued by a chronic disease which impeded my ability to study as efficiently. Regardless, I wanted to carry on with my life as normally as I could and chose to continue my studies with extra support from staff. This also placed extra stress on my financial situation, as I was no longer able to continue working to support myself.

How have the barriers you have faced shaped your academic and personal development?

Both the financial and physical barriers I have faced enabled me to develop confidence in my own abilities, as I was able to overcome things that I did not think could be resolved. I believed that my academic career would be hindered but instead I proved the only limit is your mind, and that if you aspire to achieve something you are capable of anything. I have come to realise that these experiences have shaped me into the individual I am today.

What advice would you give to someone to help them overcome a similar challenge?

I believe it is important to ask for help even if you feel like your problem is not significant, because every challenge is. Asking for help ultimately allows us to surround ourselves with those who can make us feel better and thus facilitate our development. These people can help evoke a sense of optimism so that we are able to deal with challenging situations, improving both our resilience and determination.

As a scholarship recipient, how would you describe the impact this has had on you?

Receiving the Next Generation Scholarship has provided an invaluable foundation to help me shape my own future, encompassing not only financial assistance but also a source of motivation to further my academic endeavours. I have been able to fully immerse myself into my studies whilst also making the most of the opportunities available at LSHTM. I feel incredibly valued as an individual which has inspired me to succeed; I am excited to put into practice what I have learned throughout my time here, in order to help make a true difference within healthcare settings.

Many of our scholarships are kindly funded through philanthropy - what message would you like to share with someone considering contributing to our scholarship programme?

Aspiration and determination are for everyone, and so too must be equality and opportunity. Without your benevolent donations to institutions like LSHTM, academia remains a disproportionate sphere only accessible to those in more favourable positions. Therefore, individuals such as yourselves provide those from less privileged backgrounds with the chance to flourish and make a difference in a field they are devoted to.

How are you finding your programme so far?

The MSc Medical Microbiology programme has been everything I desired and more in terms of an MSc. It has allowed me to develop a specialist understanding of pathogenic organisms through a combination of lectures and hands-on laboratory classes. Also, I have noticed that the programme has been carefully designed so that we can develop a range of professional and transferable skills. In particular, I feel MSc Medical Microbiology at LSHTM offers a more personalised teaching experience due to learning as part of a very small cohort.

What has surprised you about LSHTM?

LSHTM’s commitment to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) was a refreshing surprise. Whilst many institutions simply profess the importance of these ideologies, LSHTM actively puts these into practice. It is ensured that the various programmes run are deliberately and consistently inclusive, and that they consider the mixture of cultures and belief systems across the university.

What are your plans for after your MSc degree?

Becoming an MSc student at LSHTM has allowed me to reflect on which direction I would like my career to take. Although I am currently unsure of what exactly it is I would like to pursue, I am confident that I enjoy the clinical aspects of my course. For example, I am particularly interested in a role that would allow me to isolate and characterise infectious agents so that they can be treated and managed in patients.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for your programme and/or the Next Generation Scholarship at LSHTM?

As cliché as it sounds, I believe it is important to remain authentic as LSHTM prides itself on its diverse student cohort. Narrating your individual growth journey as well as communicating what makes you stand out is crucial, and remember not to doubt your abilities.