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Graduations 2022: Laying foundations for exceptionally trained doctors

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Published on 01 December 2022

Senior Lecturer Michael Atkinson, Dr Leah Williams, Dr Jade Dhesi, Dr Lewis Potter, Dr Katie Sissons, Dr Sherif Mito and Professor Scott Wilkes
Senior Lecturer Michael Atkinson, Dr Leah Williams, Dr Jade Dhesi, Dr Lewis Potter, Dr Katie Sissons, Dr Sherif Mito and Professor Scott Wilkes

The University of Sunderland’s School of Medicine celebrates the first graduates from its programme teaching doctors how to teach.

Ten doctors from across the UK, drawn from a variety of medical professions and varying years of service, have now completed the Post Graduate Certificate in Medical Education, alongside their day jobs.

Stepping on stage at the Stadium of Light, during Sunderland’s Winter Graduation ceremonies this week, the successful group of students collected their certificates, achieving a qualification which will help advance their roles as professional educators for both Undergraduate and Postgraduate students in medical training.

The year-long programme is part of the growth strategy behind Sunderland’s School of Medicine, which opened in 2018, investing in medical students’ educational experience, leading to improved patient care.

Chris Tiplady, Consultant Haematologist and Director of Undergraduate Clinical Studies at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, has been a medical educator for 21 years, and took up his post at Sunderland last year to lead the programme.  

He says: “I’m delighted to see our first cohort of Post Graduate Certificate in Medical Education students graduate, which is a major milestone for Sunderland’s School of Medicine.”

He adds: “Many people assume that because you’re a doctor you can teach, and while most doctors do have some inherent teaching skills, there are those who have a special interest and want to take it that bit further and develop it, direct their career more towards it. This certificate is the start to that pathway.

“This course is about the why and how to train people – it elevates students to a different level, and it helps them adapt to the pressures of medicine – a lot of medical staff get huge personal satisfaction from teaching.”

The launch of the programme has led to its reputation spreading nationally, this academic year has seen a five-fold increase in applicants with numbers boosted from 10 to 50, with plans to expand the course further, as the size of the School of Medicine grows.

As well as GPs, an Orthopedic Registrar, Senior Obstetrician and Gynecology Registrar and an Emergency Care doctor, the programme also attracted members of the University’s own teaching staff including Dr Leah Williams, a Sunderland Teaching Fellow. 

She said:  "The course challenged me to be creative with my teaching. As a Teaching Fellow, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity of working with the curriculum of a new medical school. The course gave me lots of new ideas for how I could implement this curriculum in a creative and interesting way for the students."

Michael Atkinson, who is a Senior Lecturer on the programme and who holds a national role as Co-Chair of the Mindfulness in Medical Education Special Interest Group for the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME), commented: “The training of medical students and doctors is a rewarding part of the role for many doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

“Their training spans everything from physiology to pharmacology, including the development of clinical skills and professionalism. Our aim is to develop expert medical educators who will play a key role in training the next generation of health-care professionals, ultimately to enhance the profession and patient care. Our first cohort certainly have impressed with their commitment and passion for programme, and we’re thrilled many of them will go on to study at Diploma and Masters level. 

Dr Katie Sissons, is one of four graduates to continue onto the Master’s programme.

She said: “I am graduating and proud to be both staff, as a GP trainee on an educational Integrated Training Programme within the GP team at Sunderland, and a student of the School of Medicine. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the theory behind medical education and delighted to have enrolled on the Masters this year and extended my training, and time with Sunderland, for a second academic year.”

Sunderland was one of five universities given government approval to open a medical school. The institution was founded with the guidance and expertise of Keele University’s School of Medicine. In opening the School of Medicine, the university hopes to tackle the region's chronic shortage of doctors, boost the number of under-represented groups in the profession and develop home-grown talent.

Professor Scott Wilkes, Head of the School of Medicine, said: “This is a landmark day for the School of Medicine. The success demonstrated by these early career doctors is testament to the talent in our region. Not only have they bolstered their CVs and progressed their careers, but they have also showcased how we support our educating doctors in our hospital trusts and GP practices who are the educators of our medical students. Dr Chris Tiplady has led this very important theme for us with passion and unrivalled expertise for the benefit of the new medical school.”