Published on 23 November 2021
Lucy Giles joined the University of Sunderland’s School of Medicine this term, following in her sister Laura's footsteps.
Laura, now in the third year of the MBChB Medicine degree, was one of the first students to join the programme when it launched in 2019.
Not only are the Sunderland sisters from a non-medical background but are the first from Southmoor Academy Sixth Form to land places at the School of Medicine.
Their grandfather’s experiences as a stroke patient and the support the NHS provided to him inspired the sisters to study medicine, alongside a keen interest in science and a passion for helping others.
Laura, 21, said: “I have always loved the sciences and from a young age I was interested in working in the NHS. I completed my work experience at Sunderland Royal Hospital, which reinforced my desire to work in that field, and set my sights on applying to university.
“I was very keen to apply to local universities and as Sunderland Medical School was due to open in 2019, it automatically became my first choice.
“Although I received a number of offers to study medicine across the country, my passion was to work within the north-east where I grew up. Being at Sunderland Medical School will allow me to give back to the community I was raised in, hopefully working alongside doctors and medical staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
“My aim is to make other people better; I know you can’t fix everyone, but I can certainly try!”
Laura has now started her clinical placements. She will work on various hospital wards over three years, beginning with North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
She says she could not be prouder of her younger sibling joining Sunderland.
“Seeing Lucy in her first year makes me so proud, even if I hadn’t decided on a career in medicine, I know she still would have been here, she’s so dedicated to sciences and is so hardworking!”
Both sisters studied A/AS Levels at Southmoor Academy in Biology, Chemistry and Maths, with Laura choosing an additional Art course, pursuing her creative talents – an area she’d like to explore as she considers her future as a surgeon.
Having attended an Open Day at the University of Sunderland, Lucy, 18, says she was really impressed with the new facilities and friendly staff. Also seeing her sister join the first cohort of students and listening to how highly she spoke of her own experiences, inspired her to follow in Laura’s footsteps and apply to Sunderland.
Lucy says: “I am really enjoying the course so far. I am really keen to learn more about the subject each week. My favourite part of the course so far is anatomy.”
She added: “It is extremely useful having my sister Laura on the same course as she has already been through it therefore knows what is expected. If I haven’t been sure about a specific area Laura has been able to give me some support and reassurance. It’s also useful being able to ask for advice on revision techniques and how much to revise.”
The sisters say both their parents are extremely proud of their achievements so far.
“They have witnessed how challenging and difficult it has been to get into medicine and also all the hard work we had to do,” says Lucy.
“They were absolutely over the moon when we both received offers for Sunderland. They are so excited to see what the future holds for us.” Lucy is very open at the moment for any career in medicine, however, she says he does have interest in obstetrics and gynecology specifically.
She added: “If you are interested in a career in medicine, my advice is to go for it. Although the application process is challenging and requires a lot of hard work, the hard work eventually pays off. Stay on top of work especially with A levels, UCAT and personal statements but ensure you have a good work life balance.”
Professor Scott Wilkes, Head of School of Medicine and Professor of General Practice and Primary Care at Sunderland, said: “It’s lovely to see the two sisters thriving in our new medical school.
“Laura is our first local applicant from Sunderland, won the Head of School’s gold medal being top in the first-year knowledge exams and I know that both sisters are very competitive.
“I am certain that Laura was an instrumental role model for her sister Lucy who comes with equal academic excellence. I can only imagine how proud the sisters’ parents and grandparents must feel because I feel that too.
“Together and with many more of their cohort, they will inspire others to believe that they can achieve their dreams and more than that, inspire our graduates to work in our wonderful, developing city and the North East.”
The University launched its medical school in 2019 and was one of five new medical schools to be given Government backing in 2018.
It was founded with the guidance of Keele University’s School of Medicine and is one of 33 across the UK and the second in the North East.
It 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.