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How a move to Kenya led to a first-class degree in Podiatry for UEL graduate

professional health studies

Daud Abdirahman and many of his fellow Podiatry graduates have walked straight into jobs after completing degrees

By Lee Pinkerton

It was a trip to Kenya that prompted a young man from north-west London to turn his life around. And now he is celebrating a first-class degree from the University of East London (UEL).

Daud Abdirahman, 24, admits studying at university was not on his radar while he was growing up in Harlesden, in the London Borough of Brent. 

“It’s a bit of a rough area,” he said. “Education is not considered important for the majority of the youth. Either you play football or you play music or something like that. “So, after I finished my A levels I wasn’t really interested in going to university because the majority of my friends were not going.” 

But Daud’s father had other ideas.

Daud (pictured second left) said, “My father has a proper African background and for him education is the key to everything. So he decided to move the family to Kenya for two years.”

It was a culture shock for Daud, and what he experienced in Kenya had a transforming effect on him.

“I saw real poverty,” Daud said.  “I saw kids standing outside of school staring into the classroom to try and see what the teacher was teaching, so they could learn something. But here I was with a free education that I didn’t really care about.”

The experience had such an impact on him that when he returned to London, he resolved to study for a university degree. He focused on the sciences, with the intention of pursuing a career in medicine.

“I decided to look for NHS courses,” he said. “I looked at courses like Radiography and when I went to UEL I spoke to someone who was graduating from Podiatry. They told me about the job opportunities – that a lot of people are graduating and getting jobs straight away. Also, if you graduate as a podiatrist, it’s not just one thing you have to do for the rest of your career.  There are a lot of different areas you can work in.”

Once enrolled as a student at UEL he embraced it fully, gaining work experience at various clinics at weekends and working as a curriculum ambassador by going out to schools to tell pupils about the degree and the career path of a podiatrist. 

“When I was their age, I didn’t really know the importance of education. I felt that going and giving them a talk might make a difference, so they could realise what they needed to do at the age of 18, rather than at the age of 21 like I did.”

All the hard work paid off as last month Daud graduated with a first-class degree, and has already secured a job from his first interview at Croydon Hospital. 

Daud is just one of many of this year’s cohort of UEL podiatry graduates who have already found employment

“Our employability for this year is amazing, considering students have only just had their degree classifications released,” said programme leader Charlotte Vannet (pictured third left).

“Fifty of our 30 graduates have already secured a podiatry job, mostly in the NHS.”

Two of the other student successes stories from this year’s cohort are Mary Adeniji and Sacha Lewis.

Sacha (pictured  far right) joined UEL in 2015 as a mature student, having previously worked as a procurement manager in adult social care services. He was drawn to study podiatry as a result of his own personal experience of receiving treatment as a diabetic.

In his late 30s Sacha decided to return to university to help change careers, first completing an access course which enabled him to meet the criteria to apply for the podiatry degree.

There are only 13 universities in the country that offer a degree in Podiatry, and UEL is the only one based in London. So, for London-based Sacha, UEL was the natural choice. 

Another thing that attracted him to the University was the fact that they have a functioning NHS clinic based on campus so students can get real world, hands-on experience.

Fellow graduate Mary Adeniji (pictured far left) originally started studying for a degree in Biochemistry at another university, but became disillusioned with it.

“I found that there wasn’t a lot of patient interaction and it was a lot of lab work by yourself,” she reveals. “I wanted to study something which was a bit more hands on.”

So she dropped out of the course and, after returning to work, shadowed podiatrists for a year to see if that would be more to her liking. Three years later she enrolled on the Podiatry degree course at UEL.

During her final year Mary won a prestigious internship with Arthritis UK which she will be enjoying during the summer, and once that is completed she has a job lined up as a Band 5 Podiatrist with Croydon Hospital.