Meet the University of Sunderland’s doctors of tomorrow

The University of Sunderland's School of Medicine students

Published on 16 September 2019

Meet the University of Sunderland’s doctors of tomorrow

This week a new School of Medicine opened at the University of Sunderland.

Here we meet some of the first medical students through the doors and find out why they have chosen to train in the North East

It has been dubbed “one of the most significant events in the history of the University of Sunderland”.

In March last year, the Government announced that Sunderland was one of five universities across the country to open a medical school.

While the North East was already training medics, it was struggling to retain them, particularly in the area of general practice.

Then health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, made the announcement regarding the first new medical schools in England for more than a decade, as “part of the biggest ever expansion of our medical and nursing workforce”. The aim was to help the country deal with the challenges of having around one million more over-75s in 10 years’ time.

Fast-forward 18 months.

On Monday, the first cohort of 50 students walked through the doors of the new School. When they graduate, the school’s doctors will be clinicians, qualified to move into any medical speciality.

Perhaps most significantly for the new students, they will be initially studying alongside the University’s other health-related programmes, including pharmacists, nurses, allied health professionals and, biomedical scientists.

Here, we meet some of the new doctors of the future.

Name: Christian Hilling

Age: 19

From: Ponteland

Q) What first got you interested in a career in medicine?

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about it since I was in middle school. Helping people has always been something I’ve liked to do. I also loved doing sciences at school, particularly biology, so it seemed to make sense to combine the two.

Q) So why the University of Sunderland?

I liked the idea that this was something new, something that I would be a part of from the beginning. It was also the idea that there would just be 50 of us so the classes would be small – I like that type of teaching style.

Q) Any thoughts on the types of doctor you want to be once you have completed the programme?

I actually want to go through the process of training before I make any decisions on a specific type of specialism. I’m hoping the next few years will help me make that decision so I’m staying pretty open minded.

Q) Are you planning to stay and work in the North East once you have qualified?

Yes. I want to work in this region. All my family and friends are here and, even though I love travelling, I want to build my career here.

 

Name: Francesca Cockell

Age: 18

From: Whickham, Gateshead

Q) What first got you interested in a career in medicine?

Well, when I was 11 years old, I wanted to be a teacher. My mum is actually an art teacher at the secondary school I went to. Then I started thinking more about medicine. I realised that health problems know no boundaries; rich people get cancer, as do poor people. I liked the idea of being able to help all people, from all backgrounds.

Q) So why the University of Sunderland?

I actually got three offers from universities but I’d been to an open day at Sunderland and I liked the way the programme was set out. There were just going to be 50 of us, so I knew we would get that personal attention. Also, when I visited I felt like I was being treated as a person, and not just a number.

Q) Any thoughts on the types of doctor you want to be once you have completed the programme?

I have always liked the idea of working with babies but I’m going to keep an open mind. I know there’s a lot of years of study in front of me so I will wait and see what happens.

Q) Are you planning to stay and work in the North East once you have qualified?

I love the North East and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather work. I love that feeling of coming home after you’ve been away for a little while. I feel comfortable here. This is my home.

 

Name: Laura Giles

Age: 19

From: Sunderland

Q) What first got you interested in a career in medicine?

When I was 13 years old my grandfather was unwell and spent a lot of time in Sunderland Royal Hospital. It was then that I started thinking about helping people and I actually liked the idea of being around patients. Around 2017, I did some work experience at the hospital and I just felt really comfortable in that kind of environment. Also, I was enjoying chemistry and biology at school so things led me in that direction.

Q) So why the University of Sunderland?

Well, I came to a summer school at the University and I learned a lot about the set up of the medical programme and how it would be taught. I immediately felt comfortable there and I liked the idea of small group teaching.

Q) Any thoughts on the types of doctor you want to be once you have completed the programme?

Yes, I’d like to be a surgeon; that’s the specialism I’m interested in but I appreciate there is a long way to go first.

Q) Are you planning to stay and work in the North East once you have qualified?

I have lived in Sunderland all of my life, I know this city like the back of my hand. I can’t imagine living or working anywhere else but here.

 

The opening of the new School has been warmly welcomed from academics and leaders at the University.

John Mowbray, Chair of Governors at the University, said: “The opening of the School of Medicine is one of the most significant events in the history of the University of Sunderland and helps place it at the forefront of the health education in the UK. It's a very exciting moment for us and also many patients in the future who will benefit from doctors, made in Sunderland.”

Professor Tony Alabastar, Academic Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing at the University, said: “The Faculty warmly welcomes our first cohort of medical students who will be studying alongside students and healthcare professionals from the Faculty’s three other Schools, including pharmacists, nurses, allied health professionals and, biomedical scientists.

“These inter- professional learning opportunities, underpinned by our extensive portfolio of patient, carer and public involvement, will help to ensure that we provide the best possible learning opportunities for these new medical students”