AO’s Richards and Topalovic support charity’s effort to keep students inspired

Two AO representatives were part of a United Kingdom-based charity’s recent effort to keep Davos-area students inspired following the pandemic-related postponement of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting.

Each January for the past two years, the charity Education and Employers has organized an event for WEF annual meeting participants to visit Davos-area schools and raise students’ awareness about the many career paths available to them. With the postponement of the 2021 WEF meeting, the charity didn’t want young people to miss a chance to be inspired so—in partnership with the Swiss charity MOD-ELLE and with support from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—it organized four virtual “Inspiring the Future” sessions over three days. The online events brought students together with inspiring professionals, including AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) Director Prof Geoff Richards and AO Senior Program Manager Diversity, Inclusion and Mentorship Tatjana Topalovic.

‘Primary Futures’
In a January 27 session, students met and talked with Snapchat CEO and cofounder Evan Spiegel, and during the January 28 event, primary school students in three different Davos classrooms joined an interactive, virtual “Primary Futures” session in German, featuring multilingual volunteers answering questions and discussing their careers.

On January 29, students in Klosters interacted with a panel that included Richards and representatives of the WEF, Roche Diagnostics, and Payflow Digital. The same day, students in Davos heard from a diverse international panel that included Topalovic, the town’s mayor, representatives of the OECD, business, industry, and education.


‘Follow your dreams’
Richards relished the opportunity to encourage the young participants.

“I love helping the young girls and boys get an interest in not just science but in their futures and all the possibilities that are open to them,” said Richards who, alongside leading ARI, is a member of the AO Executive Committee. “I even told them that my A-level results—in the 1980s, well before these students were born—were not good enough for me to study to become a veterinarian; that sent me towards biology and now my team that I love to work with has vets within it.”

Richards advised the youngsters to follow their dreams and remain undeterred by setback.

“I said, ‘Look what I do now after a setback when I was younger,’” he recounted.

‘They are our future’
Topalovic said the event was more than simply an opportunity to promote the work of AO Access, the AO’s diversity, inclusion, and mentorship initiative. AO Access seeks to diversify the next generation of physicians, nurses, health professionals and scientists by removing barriers so that everyone has equal access to opportunity, entry, and advancement in the organizations.

“Getting feedback from the students and co-panelists was very enriching,” she said. “Learning about their thoughts and perspectives of the world's current status and future direction is of utmost importance: They are our future.”