The new facility at the University of Sunderland opened its doors in September 2019 and its pioneering first group of students have now reached their third year and their first experience of clinical practice.
Nine of the 48 have come to Northumbria Healthcare, which runs hospitals and community services in Northumberland and North Tyneside, and they will be spending four days a week in the Trust up until the end of March next year.
Dr Chris Tiplady, director of undergraduate clinical studies for the University of Sunderland, said: “It’s been great to welcome the new students from Sunderland and we’re really pleased to have them here, as the Trust has been supportive throughout the development of this welcome new facility.
“Being the first students at a brand-new medical school means the current cohort is a fairly confident and outgoing bunch, so I’m sure they’ll throw themselves into gaining the valuable experience they need to develop their careers and we will give them all the support we can over the next six months.”
The students will be given a taste of a range of specialties through rotations in general medicine, elderly care, paediatrics, surgery and mental health. Each of them will have a ‘buddy’ – one of the Trust’s first-year junior doctors – to help them negotiate what could be a nerve-wracking first experience of the workplace.
However, the group are showing no sign of nerves so far and are excited to get to grips with clinical practice. Becky Bramley said: “I’ve absolutely loved it so far, we’ve had a chance to go out on the wards and meet a range of different staff, who have all been really, really friendly. It’s very exciting because the clinical placement side of medicine is everything I’ve waited for.”
Fellow student Muneeb Shah added: “I’m really looking forward to being in a more clinical environment. We’ve spent some time on the wards already and I really like the fast pace, so practising my clinical skills and applying them on actual patients is something I’m really looking forward to.”
Dr Tiplady, who is also one of Northumbria Healthcare’s consultant haematologists, said: “While this is the first cohort from Sunderland, the Trust has plenty of experience in teaching medical students and the organisation from the top down has long been very supportive of training.
“We truly believe that an environment that is good for training in is one that is really good to be a patient in, so our commitment on this front not only helps the students themselves but adds to the high-quality patient care we provide. Plus, students who are from the area and train in the area are far more likely to work in the area, so we’re looking to continue our strong track record on recruitment and retention.
“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in getting us to this stage, which is the result of long planning, plenty of collaboration, support from the likes of Health Education England North East and Newcastle Medical School, as well as a range of staff from across our Trust. We’re looking forward to a long and happy relationship with Sunderland Medical School.”
The creation of Sunderland’s department was made possible through an expansion in the number of medical school places and its success is at least in part due to its commitment to widening participation.
The university prides itself on being different from most medical schools, with a relatively small student intake, a city-centre campus by the sea, a supportive community with enthusiastic and committed staff, and an excellent track record of attracting and supporting students from the least advantaged socio-economic groups.
Professor Scott Wilkes, head of the School of Medicine and professor of general practice and primary care at Sunderland, said: “This is a momentous time for our new medical school as we support our pioneer cohort of medical students about to start their learning in clinical years.
“I’m truly excited that our students will be among my colleagues – role models who will be teaching them and ultimately become their colleagues before you know it.”