As part of our #FBMHStories feature for Instagram, we chatted to Tariq Ramtoola, a final year Medical student. He discusses how he co-founded ReThink X during his time as a student, and how this year’s Manchester MedX conference, ‘The Future of Healthcare’, has grown to be the biggest yet.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I come from Mauritius so I’m an international student. I’ve been in Manchester for the past 5 years studying medicine, and I just passed finals so now I’m on placement in hospital and I’m waiting for graduation.
After 5 years on the course, what are your next steps?
I might do 2 years of foundation training and then go on to do an Masters in Healthcare Policy and then go down the Management or Consultancy route. I’m not entirely sure I want to spend my whole life as a practising Doctor, but the course has got me to where I am now with our social enterprise, ReThink X.
My course is very proactive with student societies, so depending on what you’re interested in you can build a good network around and beyond the course.
How did ReThink X begin?
It all started with applying to be General Secretary of MedSoc back in first year – no one was going for it so I was like, ‘I’ll just try and see if I get it’. No one ran against me so I ended up getting it! I got to know all the students and people around Stopford building, so the next year I applied to be President. Then I was President for 2 years – some people call me the Dictator, for personal and not-personal reasons! It was a good 2 years, we did a lot of stuff – one of the things we did was create a healthcare conference, Manchester MedX.
It started as a bit of a joke. We lost a pitch in Liverpool to host the MedSoc conference, so we were joking on the way back saying “We should do our own thing”, and then it ended up taking shape and we managed to get 65-70 people for the first MedX conference. We got student societies to run workshops, and some speakers who were mostly local – the most exotic was from Northern Ireland!
Last year we made a slightly bigger jump and used the whole space of Citylabs 1.0. We had around 110 students attend, and companies like Touch Surgery who do surgical simulations, and Medical Detection Dogs who were amazing! They brought along some dogs and explained the science behind the sense of smell and how some dogs help diabetics – the dog was just sitting there and suddenly started pawing at his owner, who checked his blood sugar and found it was really low.
Sounds fascinating! What about this year?
This year Connor and I (the guy I started this with) are no longer in MedSoc, but we wanted the MedX conference to grow and expand. As the founders we’re really passionate about building a brand and a lasting social enterprise.
We relaunched our enterprise by naming ourselves ReThink. It stemmed from rethinking healthcare but we want to keep it broad, so it’s ReThink X – it could be engineering, artificial intelligence, aerospace, pollution…it could be anything eventually so we thought we’d keep it as open as possible!
What do ReThink X do?
We have 3 streams of events – the first is the yearly MedX conference. Secondly we have a monthly talk, on topics like antibiotic awareness, entrepreneurship in healthcare, and healthcare in space. We try and do very high quality events with speakers from far and wide, but keep it free or as cheap as possible for students.
It’s great that we’ve managed to get such a diverse range of attendees this year, from loads of different courses and from Universities across Greater Manchester – we have cheese and wine nibbles at the end so that people can network and get to know each other.
The second stream of events is X Solve. We give a group of students a problem to discuss, solve and then pitch to a panel of judges. This year we’ve focused on social problems in Manchester such as homelessness and ageing populations. We’re hoping that we can build on this student base to solve real people’s problems, and it also gives students great experience and exposure to enterprises in Manchester.
Was it difficult starting up ReThink X whilst juggling your time with hospital placements for your course?
It was very hard, there was a point where I was probably doing too much and people were telling me I was crazy and needed to drop some stuff! Most of my time was spent in the Starbucks here in Citylabs where ReThink X is based. I’d come here for the whole day to revise, so everyone in Starbucks knows my name now – I probably spent an unhealthy amount of time there!
Now it’s a bit more relaxed, even through we have a lot more going on. We’re also doing a private event for the Manchester Access Programme – it’s going to be run like an X Solve workshop where we’ll get them to solve a healthcare inequality problem. Brian Cox and Sir Bruce Keogh are the judges. They’ll learn basic business and marketing skills, learn how to develop their idea into a prototype and the winner gets to implement their product with Public Health England. So hopefully this means ReThink X are helping students do something good for the wider public.
Sounds like it’ll have a huge impact in Manchester! What are you most excited about for this year’s MedX conference?
It’s a lot bigger than we expected – starting back with speakers from Northern Ireland, now we have speakers not only from the UK but from California, Madrid, Paris and Toronto too.
I think Dr Aubrey de Grey will be great – he’s talking about humans living up to 1000 years. He thinks that ageing is a disease, and like any disease process you can prevent it from happening. He thinks that current newborns are already going to be living past their 100th year whilst preserving good quality of life.
There’s a lot of medical technology and bioinformatics in the line-up, and a focus on innovation. I’m looking forward to our panel discussion called ‘You are the Future of Healthcare’. It’s an entrepreneurship healthcare panel of doctors who’ve made the jump from clinical practice to having their own companies that incorporate healthcare.
Speaking of, we at ReThink X have just found out we’re through to the finals of the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards.
Manchester MedX conference takes place on Saturday 25 March at Citylabs 1.0. Register on Eventbrite and check out ReThink X online: