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Graduations 2024: “This group have forged life-long friendships which they will treasure”

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Published on 9, July, 2024

Professor of Anatomy Debs Patten standing smiling
Professor of Anatomy, Debs Patten

As the University of Sunderland celebrates its first ever graduating team of doctors at the Stadium of Light today (Tuesday 9 July), Professor of Anatomy, Debs Patten, reflects on her first chapter with the University’s School of Medicine, which welcomed its first medical students in 2019.


It really does seem like five minutes since our pioneer cohort arrived in the Science Complex in September 2019. There was huge excitement that day amongst our (then) small team as we started this journey with them.  I taught the students in weekly anatomy classes with a small band of clinical colleagues who are still with us; this is a testament to the how special it is to teach anatomy here. Our small cohorts and small group teaching approach allows educators to get to know our students and to see them progress, week by week. There is honestly no greater joy as an educator than to be part of this. 

My standout moments are many, but for this cohort, I will always remember their resilience and maturity in the first months of the pandemic. Teaching and learning anatomy online was strange. We were flying by the seat of our pants in a way; anatomy is about face-to-face learning in the lab. The students were in university flats together and were effectively organised into social bubbles. Living and studying together 24/7 must have been an intense experience for them, but they just took care of each other, supported each other and were kind. They were wise enough to know that this was a tough gig for staff too and I was always touched when they would ask about my little boy and my family.

Group of medical students putting on their white overalls at the University of Sunderland's School of Medicine

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.

Graduation formally celebrates the end of their journey with us, but I know that when they reflect on their time with us and in the region, they will recognise just how special their time was here, for them and for us. This cohort helped to define the essence of the School of Medicine and as we mature and expand, I know that we will always strive to hold onto that essence by fostering kindness in our students and by always knowing who our students are.


To find out more about studying Medicine at the University of Sunderland, click here

For information on how the University of Sunderland teaches anatomy, click here