The Medical School at the University of Sheffield is celebrating the start of the new academic year by welcoming its biggest ever cohort of future doctors, who as part of their training will work and care for communities in South Yorkshire.
The school welcomed 305 new students for the start of the academic year this week – 50 more than the same time last year. The expansion of the course aims to bolster the number of doctors in the Yorkshire region, at a time when they are in demand across many GP surgeries and primary care settings due to medical workforce shortages.
Of the new places, 15 were reserved for a new graduate-entry programme that widens access to study medicine for students from communities with low participation in higher education, those living with a disability or care leavers.
The programme will fast-track students from science backgrounds, with a wealth of transferable medical skills and experience, straight into their second year of study.
Dean of Medical Education at the University of Sheffield Medical School, Professor Deborah Murdoch-Eaton welcomed the students on their first day. She said: “Our students from backgrounds where we want to widen participation in medicine are more likely to stay in the regional area after qualifying, in fact 70 per cent of them do, and 50 per cent work in primary care settings.
“We recognise retention within the region for these groups of students is likely to be higher, and we want to welcome them to stay and work in the local community.
“So I am proud to personally meet our new graduate students. They are the first cohort on the new programme and it is fantastic to be able to offer these new places to students who will be a valuable asset to the community.”
Over 100 applications were received for just 15 places, so competition was fierce for the new students starting this week, who included Georgia Robinson, 22, from Rotherham and Sam Horton, 21, from Derbyshire.
Sam’s personal circumstances were the driver for him to study medicine: “I became interested in a career involving a caring role after looking after my autistic brother, but after studying biomedical sciences at the University, I decided I wanted a more clinical practice-based environment.
“So I’m looking forward to the clinical years of study, as it’s the patient interactions that brought me over from biomedical sciences. I’m a little bit nervous but very, very excited. We start our GP placements only four days into our course, so the balance of theory and clinical is good from the word go.”
He added: “The widening participation scheme levels the playing field and gives a broader field of students access to medicine, which is fantastic both for the University and for Sheffield.”
Georgia had studied biomedical sciences, then completed a masters in translational oncology which allowed her to gain valuable research and lab skills which weren’t included in her earlier degree. She said: “The graduate programme will offer me the opportunity to see many branches of medicine, to allow me to make the most informed choice as to what speciality I wish to go into after I qualify.
“The programme offered me an accelerated route onto the course from my masters, so I was excited to start today as I have always wanted to study medicine.”
Each student was also granted a scholarship towards their fees for the year thanks to generous donations to the University; especially important for students who would find it difficult to continue in higher education otherwise.
Programme Lead for the new graduate-entry programme, Dr Shah Nawaz, said: “This is a new chapter for the Medical School here at the University of Sheffield.
“The fact that the University is able to support these students and provide those opportunities going forward for more young people to study medicine is vitally important.
“Widening access to our courses reflects the national requirement for increased numbers of doctors and fits with the University’s civic mission. It demonstrates that we are committed to investing back into the people of Sheffield by educating new generations of doctors who will care for our communities in the years to come.”