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Graduations 2024: “Never forget your medical career birthplace – Sunderland”

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Published on 9, July, 2024

Professor Scott Wilkes at the University of Sunderland's School of Medicine
Professor Scott Wilkes

The first ever team of doctors are graduating from the University of Sunderland today (Tuesday 9 July) and Professor Scott Wilkes, Head of the University’s School of Medicine, shares his standout moments since the School first opened its doors to medical students in 2019.


Clearly, the most memorable highlight of this seven-year process was my tearful delivery on February 6, 2024, to the senior management team, following the final General Medical Council (GMC) quality visit that we had successfully secured our new medical school.

In the early years, it was fantastic. We started with a small staff base which afforded me the privilege of lecturing to our students, teach clinical skills and even have my own small Problem Based Learning group. I got to know the pioneer cohort of students very well. Now of course I have different responsibilities, but I now thoroughly enjoy watching all year groups mature when I examine clinical skills in all clinical years in all partner hospital trusts. I have to say I’m thoroughly impressed by their professionalism and patient communication skills.

An amazing highlight was when we entered the Guardian league table ranked 19th out of 44 schools in our first year, and the huge roar that followed when I delivered that message to the whole student cohort at a prize giving ceremony. I’m excited to watch the metrics unfold over the years. The next will be the National Student Survey.

A standout moment was when I personally trained half of the cohort and took them vaccinating with me at weekends in the height of the pandemic. As second year medical student their competence in patient communication skills let alone administering the injections was beyond my expectations. The clinical prowess of all our medical students continues to be reflected to us from our hospital and GP colleagues.

A group of students in white overalls at the University of Sunderland's School of Medicine

What sets us apart from other medical schools is our successful recruitment metrics for students from state schools, socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, locally recruited talent and students from ethnic minorities. What’s more, they are all succeeding.

Another proud accolade is the popularity of our programme such that we have a waiting list of GP clinical placement providers. I’m looking forward to expansion.

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. A very proud moment was when 96% of the pioneer cohort passed their national medical finals written exam at first sit which was higher than the national average.

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.

The future for the medical school is incredibly bright. We will without doubt expand to offer more of what we do to students with talent who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to study medicine. We will innovate in curriculum delivery. We will remain focused on socioeconomic disadvantage and will support our students to succeed.

The support that I received from the University Executive, Keele Medical School, staff, students, NHS England Education, Hospital Trusts, GP practices, and many more has been immeasurable. I am forever in your debt for the creation of this wonderful medical school.

Finally, I’m extremely proud of the yet-to-be-realised, impact on the health and wealth of Sunderland and the wider north-east. 

Medical students using the technology at the University of Sunderland's School of Medicine

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