I spoke to the lovely Luke Muschialli, a second year Medical student who is currently co-leading the Student-Led Project Trans Healthcare Now

Which project are you co- leading? Tell us a little about it. 

I am co-leading a project called Trans Healthcare Now. It tries to tackle the lack of knowledge of the health inequalities trans people face within the UK. In particular, it highlights the experience of transitioning to adult care services, experience within Higher Education, and the public. We want to create accessible information and educational materials for clinicians and the higher education sector. 

Tell us about your Project Leader role (i.e., what tasks have you completed so far) 

The project is very much in the early stages and what I have learned so far is to be quite flexible. So currently, with my co-leaders, we have been brainstorming ideas about what we wanted the project to be.  

We were also thinking of who our networks are and trying to get an affiliation with a charity because we want to codesign the educational materials with them. We have now effectively designed a plan to deliver educational materials. Now we are thinking about volunteering recruitment and how to train the volunteers. 

I think our project will highlight how stigma can influences your healthcare.

Why did you want to become a Project Leader?

I was initially approached by someone with this idea. I agreed to it because I have been a participant in these projects before. I am on NHS Youth Forum, which discusses youth perception of health inequalities. 

As I identify as a queer person myself, I can sympathize with the health inequalities that trans people face, so I really wanted to have a chance to lead a project from inception to carrying it out and get the project going. It is a really good experience, and I have really enjoyed leading this project. 

What were your initial expectations for your role as Project Leader, and have they changed since being part of this project?

My initial expectations of this project were that I would sit down with the team, then plan and then deliver the project. But obviously, it is not like that, as you face many hurdles. One hurdle we had to face was to get a collaboration with a charity. 

We were just unlucky as when we did email people, they were either on holiday and then we had to get our deadlines in. 

However, I am grateful for these hurdles in many ways because it has taught me what planning a project in the real world is like. 

How did the idea of the project come about?

So, the idea of the project has developed a lot. As I mentioned, someone approached me, but I was actually thinking about a similar vision and doing it with another person. 

But with all our ideas for a project, we started very broadly. We wanted to help tackle trans healthcare inequalities. It was narrowed down to the most practical and feasible in our time, so we thought about how education would be very effective if delivered well. 

What difference would you like your project to make? 

I think awareness is the biggest one because the awareness is just not there for people who are trying to transition through the healthcare system. I think highlighting this issue would be really good because it would give people more sympathy and mobilize people as it feels like a silent battle. 

I think our project will also highlight how stigma influences your healthcare. Even though the NHS is this amazing thing, it is not immune to social inequalities. At the end of the day, people are designing the healthcare system and they too have their own intrinsic biases. Highlighting this will show a greater appreciation of the things we need to fight. 

What skills are you gaining from the initial phase of planning your project?

I think I am developing a lot of adaptation skills. Trying to have a central idea, philosophy, and values system and then having to negotiate that with different people for example, your time, commitment, vision. 

We initially had a plan of delivering our sessions in term 3, but now we realise that was not possible, and now we have pushed that back to next academic year, which is something we did not want to do, but we had to do to make it more effective. 

What impact has volunteering and leading a project had on you so far?

The biggest impact it has on me is that it has definitely made me seek out opportunities more. 

I am currently applying for a scholarship that needs a solid business plan. Having gone through the Student-Led Project process, I am now more confident in project design, planning and implementation. So now, I am seeking out these opportunities, and I am not intimidated by them. 

How has your well-being been impacted by volunteering and taking a leadership role?

Overall, it has been rewarding to meet new people and understand the issue more. I hope it will become even more rewarding as the project goes on.

How has your network developed while being a Project Leader? (Have you connected with external organisations, volunteers, or other individuals)

We are still in the initial planning stages of the project, so I have mostly connected with the three people I am planning the project with, and it has been so nice! Also, connecting with people from the university, I now know more about the trans network here at UCL. In terms of external organisations, we have contacted three and expect to expand this network as time goes on.

It has helped to be under the umbrella of being a Student-Led Project because that opens many doors. Instead of just being a random person who just emails this organisation, you are with a project with a name and a title behind which really helps. I anticipate that our network will grow as the project goes on. 

What was the most challenging aspect of getting this project off the ground? How did you overcome this?

I think time is the most challenging aspect of the project. I believe that it is an ongoing commitment, and we have pushed back the project to the next academic year and the thing is, when you push something back, it becomes less on your priority list. 

We have overcome this because we have set deadlines for when things need to be completed and really set time aside.  

What is the best advice you would give to someone who has an idea for a community volunteering project?

If you have an idea that you are passionate about and have some idea on how to implement it- then do it! 

Also, reach out to people who think may be interested in your idea. It is such a great way to collaborate on a project, and I believe it can be particularly daunting to do a project by yourself. Having another person there will also make it easy to motivate you to do the project. 

Want to start your own Student-led Volunteering Project? Find out more and share your ideas with us here!