RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 8


Leanne Armitage

St George’s University
Charity and University Access

Theophina Gabriel

Leanne grew up in a single-parent home on a council estate in Peckham with her mother and four siblings. Leanne developed an interest in Medicine from a young age, intrigued by the frequent sound of the sirens of emergency services in her neighbourhood. Aged 15, Leanne unfortunately witnessed the aftermath of a stabbing in an estate nearby to where she lived. It was in that moment that Leanne was moved to make a difference, setting herself the aspiration of becoming a trauma surgeon.

However, with no medics in her family or social network, Leanne had to use her initiative to research the steps she would need to take towards achieving this goal. Throughout her GCSEs Leanne was in the second set for most of her classes. Despite not being in the greatest academic environment, she was still able to successfully attain 10 A*s in her GCSEs. Leanne also applied for and was subsequently awarded the A Better Chance bursary from Mill Hill School, where she boarded for sixth form.

“I used to think this is bigger than me, this is about people. I attached my vision to something greater than myself which gave me the tenacity and the resilience to be really focused.”

On first applying to medical school, Leanne was rejected after not performing well on the UKCAT, the entrance test for Medicine courses. Disheartened though she was, Leanne’s rejection turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After completing her A Levels and achieving 3As, Leanne secured three medical offers during her gap year and decided to study at St George’s University of London. During this year she was also awarded the Southwark Scholarship, which is now currently funding her medical degree, as a result of the volunteering and community work she did during that year.

After her second year of medical school, Leanne became very frustrated by the lack of diversity in the student body across UK medical schools. To make a change, she founded Leanne’s Amazing Medics, an outreach programme designed to inspire, equip and increase the self-confidence of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The programme started in 2017 with Leanne going back to her old sixth form and working with eight students once a month for six months, delivering practical and theoretical lessons. By the end of the year, she had secured some funding from her university and was able to expand the programme to three more schools; Leanne was now working with 30 students in Year 9 as she realised she had to start from a much younger age. She ran the programme again the following year.

In that period, Leanne also took the step to formalise the work she was doing and decided to co-found a charity, The Armitage Foundation, with Daniel Huf. The Armitage Foundation offers a medical outreach programme to students from under-represented backgrounds with the aim of increasing diversity across UK medical schools. Through this work, Leanne was awarded the UK 2018 Queen’s Young Leaders Award by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

In January 2019, Leanne received an £11,000 grant from Comic Relief, alongside some matched funding by a private donor, which allowed The Armitage Foundation to hire their first staff member. Since April 2019, the Strategic Programme Manager has worked on transforming their programmes to a now three-tier programme designed to support students from Year 9 up until their application to medical school – Armitage Juniors, Armitage Seniors and Armitage Scholars. As of February 2020, the charity has now rolled out all three programmes in the same three schools they have been working with in the South London area.

Leanne has also had the opportunity to deliver several keynote speeches at high profile events. She was the guest speaker for Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day Reception at the Houses of Parliament, and the keynote speaker for a variety of prestigious occasions, including the Baton Awards Ceremony at the Houses of Parliament, Ernst & Young’s Black-Tie Ball event, the 2018 Aleto Foundation leadership course, Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE’s celebratory event in recognition of his knighthood, and many more events. Leanne hopes to carry on using her gift for public speaking and her passion to inspire people to be the best version of themselves.

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