Inspiring our future health scientists with Women in Health Top Trumps

8 December 2017

School pupils got the opportunity to play a game inspired by Top Trumps at Bristol University’s Women in Science Outreach Event on 1 December. But this was a game with a difference, focused on 40 inspiring women who have worked in health science, healthcare and campaigning. This was the NIHR CLAHRC West team’s contribution, on behalf of the Bristol Medical School, to the event.

The team, made up of Emer Brangan, Myles-Jay Linton and Zoe Trinder-Widdess, developed a playing card for each woman, including well-known figures like Elizabeth Blackwell, Mary Seacole and Sally Davies, and the more unexpected, such as Suzi Gage, Metrodora and Ruby Wax. They also had some local stars like Jane Blazeby and Sarah Purdy.

Players could choose from four categories to win their opponents’ cards: breaking boundaries, inventions and discoveries, sharing knowledge and helping people. Each score had a little fact next to it to help players understand why each woman got the score she did, and the winner had to read their fact out.

The main aim was to show the breadth of what women have contributed to health and medicine, as well as to demonstrate the many ways we can all contribute, not just through science but through activism and communication. If people came away with a little more knowledge about what Florence Nightingale actually did, so much the better.

On the day, the stall was busy with lots of people stopping by to play. Smaller groups worked better, so often there were a couple of games going on simultaneously. Teachers and the undergraduate students helping out on the day also got stuck in. Many of them didn’t want to hand their cards over until they’d read all the details of their woman.

Zoe Trinder-Widdess, who came up with the idea of making a Top Trumps style game, said:

“It was fantastic to see so many people of all ages playing and enjoying the game. We were so relieved that kids today still know how to play Top Trumps, as we were worried it might be too old school! Some of the pupils got very competitive, in fact.

“We learned a lot about how we could improve it next time, like by shortening the facts a bit and adjusting some of the scores. We also changed how the game was played as we went along, not sticking to traditional Top Trumps rules. Rather than the winner always choosing the category, inevitably dominating the game, we got the players to take turns, to even out game play.

“We really enjoyed meeting the next generation of potential researchers, some of whom had won their places through competitions at their school. We hope the game might have inspired the next Sarah Purdy or Suzi Gage.”

If you want to know more about Women in Health (inspired by) Top Trumps, email