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First graduating medics set to take up north-east NHS roles

University of Sunderland’s first graduating medics set to take up north-east NHS roles

The University of Sunderland is celebrating its first ever graduating team of doctors at the Stadium of Light this week.

The University’s School of Medicine welcomed its first medical students in 2019 – and tomorrow (Tuesday 9 July) they will cross the stage and officially become doctors – with more than half of them (55%) taking up NHS roles in the north-east.

Laura Giles, who is about to graduate with a MBChB Medicine degree, is one of them.

As part of her degree, Laura has been working with various teams at Sunderland Royal Hospital, most recently with the maxillofacial surgeons, who specialise in surgery for the face, head, neck and jaw.

After graduating, Laura will continue her training at the hospital on South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s two-year Foundation Programme.

The programme forms the bridge between medical school and specialist/general practice training and will give Laura the opportunity to gain experience in a series of posts in a variety of specialties and healthcare settings.

Laura, 24, from Sunderland, said: “I just love the fact that I can work in the hospital that I was born in and give something back to the community I was brought up in.

“It’s really nice to be able to relate to the patients. I chat to them about the football club, the history. I think the patients appreciate it too. They talk to me about what life is like in Sunderland. It’s an incredible experience to have.”

During her studies, Laura grabbed every opportunity to hone her medical skills with both hands.

In 2021, Laura was one of a number of Sunderland medical students who were trained as junior vaccinators to help in the national vaccination programme during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering vaccines at The Parks Sports Centre in North Shields.

Following in Laura’s medical footsteps is her younger sister Lucy, who is currently in her third year studying MBChB Medicine at Sunderland.

Not only are the sisters from a non-medical background, but they are the first students from Southmoor Academy Sixth Form to land places at the University’s School of Medicine.

Laura said: “It’s just an incredible experience because I feel like people can look up to us and say, you know what, if they can do it so can we.

“No matter what background you come from, it doesn’t dictate whether you can be a doctor or not. If you’ve got the determination and you work hard, you can become a doctor.

“This is what I want to gain from this experience of being in the first cohort – to set the tone, so people can look up to us and think, I can actually do it.”

The University’s School of Medicine was one of five new medical schools to be given Government backing in 2018.

Since then, it has grown in size and reputation, opening an Anatomy Centre in early 2022 and moving into the Murray Health building this year.

This year also saw the School granted official status by the General Medical Council (GMC) in a seminal moment for the institution. At a meeting in April, the GMC agreed to add the University to the list of bodies able to award UK primary medical qualifications.

The University is now the only one in the north-east which offers a full suite of health-related courses, including paramedic and other health-related sciences, nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy.

The School of Medicine was set up to tackle the region’s shortage of doctors, develop home-grown talent and raise the number of under-represented groups in the profession.

Of those graduating this year, 41% are from the north-east and 48% are from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the field.

Professor Scott Wilkes, Head of the University’s School of Medicine, said: “I’m immensely proud of our pioneer cohort. They have been wonderful. They have helped us learn, given us great feedback which has turned this medical school I believe into one of the best in the UK.

“My message to our students is to be proud of what you have achieved, believe in yourself, work hard, take all the advice on offer and live the GMC values of Good Medical Practice. Never forget your medical career birthplace – Sunderland – be proud.”

Professor of Anatomy at the University and one of Laura’s tutors, Professor Debs Patten, said: “I know this group have forged life-long friendships which they will treasure. I am immensely proud of their achievements, their kindness, their demonstrable commitment to social responsibility and how they worked with us to make the School of Medicine even better for the cohorts following in their footsteps.”

Dr Shaz Wahid is the Executive Medical Director of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. He also delivered lectures and taught Sunderland medical students on the ward while they were on clinical attachment.

Dr Wahid said: “It is a tremendous achievement for these students to reach their graduation.

“Their hard work has paid off and we know the team at the University has been alongside them all the way.

“As a Trust, we are delighted to be a partner in this course and play a part in bringing on the doctors of the future. Gaining first-hand experience is essential to their studies and our teams have been a key part of helping them gain that.

“We also know that by attracting these students to the north-east, many will remain here in our region delivering healthcare to our patients. We’re now looking forward to welcoming several of the graduates as they set out on the next phase of their training.”

The University of Sunderland’s Summer Graduation Ceremonies (Monday 8 July – Friday 12 July) will see thousands of students celebrate completing their studies and embark on their next chapter.

They will be joined by inspirational figures who have made significant contributions to their areas of work and society, receiving honorary awards from the University.

Honories include; internationally acclaimed performance storyteller, author and playwright Richard O’Neill, Prima Cheese co-CEO Nagma Ebanks-Beni MBE, director, producer and musician Ryan Hope and former group chief executive of Legal and General, Sir Nigel Wilson.

For more information on studying Medicine at the University of Sunderland, visit: https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/study/medicine/mbchb-medicine/

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