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CATE 2023: Innovative co-production projects with students at the University of Brighton

17 Aug 2023 | Simonne Weeks Donor Research Director and Senior Lecturer for Biomedical Science, Simonne Weeks, leads the award-winning team at the University of Brighton. In this blog she explains how as part of the Donor Research team collaborated to address health inequalities in blood and organ donor shortages.

I am delighted the University of Brighton's Donor Research team has won a prestigious Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) which recognises our innovative co-production projects with students, aiming to address health inequalities and shortages in blood and organ donations in the UK. 


The Donor Research team consists of healthcare professionals, academics and predominantly students from the University of Brighton and the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. They also collaborate with experts from Kings College NHS, the Universities of Bedfordshire, Stirling and Northumbria. 

Established in 2020, Donor Research was born out of the realisation that undergraduate students and healthcare professionals new to academia have limited opportunities to join research teams and work on innovative solutions for the UK's organ and blood shortage. Currently, there are over 6,000 people waiting for a transplant, and England alone requires more than 6,000 blood donations daily to treat patients. 

The team's goal is to advance and shape community awareness of blood and organ donation, working towards a fairer and more equal society. We recruit students from various courses, who become champions and equal learning partners alongside academics. 

Our approach is guided by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) co-production principles, emphasising innovation, inclusivity and sustainable growth. We foster an environment of respect, trust and open communication, providing the necessary resources and support for success. 


Joey Fanstone, a co-founder of Donor Research and a 2nd-year student at Brighton Sussex Medical School, highlights the team's growth and impact. “Starting with only three members, they have now expanded to include over 20 students and staff. Delivering teaching sessions and workshops alongside fellow students has raised awareness about these critical issues and demonstrated the need for such education.” 

Team members collaborate, integrating knowledge from various healthcare disciplines to create a holistic perspective when designing, delivering and evaluating educational events. These events, which address real-world health issues, are inclusive and interactive. We’ve engaged in meaningful conversations with over 1,000 students through in-person workshops and debate-style learning sessions. Additionally, our reach has extended to more than 20,000 students indirectly through freshers' fair events. 

Student Champions within the Donor Research team express their enthusiasm and gratitude for being part of this transformative experience. They mention the valuable skills they have cultivated and the remarkable opportunities they have encountered. 

Donor Research's impact is evident in the team’s efforts to raise awareness for blood and organ donation and promote diversity within the donor pool in the UK. Our Edublog site has received over 4,000 views, and social media campaigns have attracted more than 500 followers. 

Juliet Eve, the Head of the Learning & Teaching Hub at the University of Brighton, commends the team for their pioneering work, aligning with the core values of inclusivity, partnership and creativity held by the University. The impact of our work extends beyond staff and students, inspiring the wider community. 

Through their excellence in teaching, learning, research, collaboration and leadership, the Donor Research team inspires other academics to adopt similar co-production models. The goal is to equip more students with the skills needed for professional practice and empower them to become advocates for change. 


Simonne Weeks is the Director of Donor Research and has the honour of working with co-founder Rebecca Craig (Chief of Operations) and Joey Fanstone (Chief of Champions). Other key members of the core team include Connor Thompson (Pharmacy advisor and Lead on Digital Communications) and Charlotte Humphris (Nursing advisor).  The core team also includes students who equal learning partners who contributed to this CATE application: Estella Brown, Alice De Courcy Thompson, Lois Leese, Amber Anscombe, Nadeen Alay. 

NETworking & Innovation in Healthcare Education Conference 2023 – Hilton Hotel City Centre, Liverpool, 5-7 December 2023

NETworking & Innovation in Healthcare Education Conference (NET) is the leading, international conference for healthcare educators across a range of disciplines. It provides a unique opportunity to engage with the latest evidence, developments and thinking in healthcare education, alongside educators, learners, practitioners and researchers from across the UK and beyond. Find out more.


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