Intended for healthcare professionals

Editor's Choice

Calling all social entrepreneurs

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 30 August 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3671

Social entrepreneurship should be encouraged since the early days of medical school

We read this article with great interest. Professor Godlee mentioned that to fit the bill of social entrepreneur, one ‘would need to be motivated by altruism, not profit, able to think creatively, and willing to stimulate disruptive change despite not necessarily being in a formal leadership role.’ We believe the spirit of social entrepreneurship should be encouraged since the early days of medical school. Healthcare professionals often aware of the issues facing their daily practice but lack the time to take an action [1]. Medical students are thus uniquely positioned with their time and enthusiasm. These traits by some means strike resemblance to the work medical students at MedAID for International Need Edinburgh (MedAID) have been doing.

MedAID is a student-led charity (SC039991) that aims to end excess and stop shortage by collecting unwanted medical supplies from hospital, checking their viability, and re-distributing them to settings where they are needed [2]. MedAID was first conceived when medical students at the University of Edinburgh were appalled by the amount of intact supplies binned in hospitals despite them being needed elsewhere, often in developing countries. MedAID was not started with profit in mind, but rather with the desire to end excess and stop shortage whilst empowering medical students to champion a cause they care about. Few years on, it remains this altruistic desire that is pushing MedAID forward.

Being entirely student-run does not preclude the ability of MedAID to stimulate disruptive change; over 30 distributions have been completed to over 20 different countries in Africa, Asia, Americas and Europe with highly positive feedbacks [1]. MedAID demonstrate how despite not having a formal role within the healthcare system, they are still able to stimulate disruptive change locally and globally. Indeed, the scope of MedAID’s work will continue to grow with medical students from Sheffield, Newcastle and Leicester expressing their interest in setting up MedAID locally where they are based.

Organisations like MedAID can serve as the platform for medical students to develop their courage, express their creativity, and empowering them to be the future social entrepreneurs and leaders our healthcare system desperately needs to flourish in an increasingly uncertain future.


Competing interests: EC and HWL are involved with MedAID for International Need Edinburgh.

31 August 2018
Edward Christopher
Medical student
Hui Wei Leow
College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh