Graduation week has seen the first cohort of medical students to graduate through Lancaster Medical School with a Lancaster University degree.
Prof Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, congratulated the school on becoming fully accredited by the General Medical Council (GMC).
Prof Cumming was one of the VIP guests at the graduation of 41 medical graduates who have gained a Lancaster degree for the first time following this accreditation.
Other VIP guests at the graduation included the Chair of HEE Sir Keith Pearson, former Dean of Postgraduate Medical Studies for HEE (North) Professor Jacky Hayden and the Director of Education and Standards at the GMC, Dr Colin Melville.
Prof Cumming said: “Our people are the most valuable asset in the NHS and at a time when we hear so much about the challenges that undoubtedly face it, it is also good to remember that it is the envy of the world thanks to the work of its staff.
“So it is great to be able to personally congratulate all the graduates on their achievement and also Lancaster University on becoming a fully accredited medical school.”
The Lancaster MBChB programme had been run in conjunction with the University of Liverpool but now has full, independent GMC accreditation, following an exacting six year application process.
This marks an important milestone in the development of Lancaster Medical School, which began in 2006 with Prof Anne Garden as the first Head of the School.
A total of 266 doctors have graduated so far with the Liverpool degree but from now on they will all graduate with a Lancaster degree.
The head of Lancaster Medical School, Dr Rachel Isba, said: “It is wonderful to be able to celebrate with our first class to graduate with a Lancaster medical degree.
“Achieving our GMC accreditation is the culmination of years of work and we are proud of the medical education we offer here and the high-quality doctors leaving us today to enter clinical practice in the NHS.”
From 2018, Lancaster Medical School will also offer an additional 15 medical student places, with plans to expand further from 2019 dependent upon the outcomes of the process being designed by HEE and the Higher Education Funding Council for England to manage the Government’s expansion of medical student numbers.
The Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medicine, Prof Neil Johnson, said: ”The granting by the GMC of independent medical degree-awarding powers is a real milestone in the development of Lancaster Medical School – it is really pleasing to see the huge effort and dedication put in by everyone involved being recognised.
“Now we have reached this position we are very keen to expand the number of medical places we offer and we see this as the next phase in the development of the Medical School.”
Some of the students who graduated from Lancaster Medical School:
* Lancaster medical graduate Sally Ingram is the latest member of her family to pursue a medical career.
Her father is Dr Dominic Ingram, a GP at Bay Medical Group in Heysham, and her mother Jane is a nurse practitioner in Morecambe.
Sally, 23, said: “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. I looked up to my dad and I wanted to understand all the talk about health at the dinner table.”
The family lives in Haverbreaks Road in Lancaster, where Sally attended Ripley St Thomas and then the sixth form at Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School before going to Lancaster Medical School.
“Lancaster was a really friendly course,” Sally said. “Everyone knows you and the staff are like friends.”
One of seven children, Sally’s elder sister Emily is a doctor, younger sister Sophie is studying pharmacy and middle sister Ruth studies biomedical science while the other siblings are still at school.
Sally lived at home while at university, which she found had both advantages and disadvanges.
“When I needed to work, I could escape back home and not have to worry about cooking meals - but living with four teenagers while revising for my finals was challenging!” she said.
As a local, she also discovered aspects of Lancaster through showing her university friends around.
“I’ve learned more about my own city because it’s opened my eyes to what Lancaster holds, especially showing people round the Lake District,” she added.
Sally is now working as a doctor with a long-term aim of focusing on sports medicine.
* Jamie Harrison chose to become a doctor after working as a healthcare worker in the same deprived area where he grew up.
His mother is a beautician and his father a coach driver so he is the first person in his family to go to university.
It took him a while to decide he wanted to study medicine.
“When I was six I wanted to be a fireman,” he said. “That Christmas I decided to put my fireman’s outfit and water pistol to the test and set my toy box on fire.
“After I failed to put it out, I ran screaming for the help of my parents who were asleep, and decided I wanted to be a policeman instead.”
Even after sixth form, Jamie was unsure what to do. He went to Canada on a gap year volunteering for the Salvation Army where he volunteered doing youth work and working with the homeless.
“This gave me a whole new perspective on life,” he said. “How to live simply and an even greater desire to help others – in whatever role.”
When he returned, Jamie became a healthcare assistant in a GP practice in Oldham in Greater Manchester.
“That is what made me want to be a doctor,” he said. “I loved their ethos of making a change through the delivery of holistic care.”
He switched to working part-time and returned to college to re-sit his GCSEs and then complete an Access to Medicine course.
“It was challenging in its own way – returning to education as an adult can be difficult,” Jamie said. “You have to readjust to living on less money, whilst juggling a working life, social life and find time to study.”
He then spent five years at Lancaster Medical School studying for his medical degree.
“Lancaster has been great,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by stunning scenery. The medical school and hospital staff are lovely, and the fact that they know you by name makes a real difference.”
Jamie now plans to complete the two year Foundation Program for newly qualified doctors before deciding between emergency medicine or plastic surgery.
* A former salesman has graduated as a doctor after becoming inspired by his fiancée to switch career.
Dean John is the first in his family to go to university, which he described as a “foreign environment”.
His stepfather was a policeman and his mother had warehouse or retail jobs while he was growing up, before retraining as an accountant when Dean was a teenager.
Dean said there is no way he would have become a doctor, were it not for his girlfriend Jo Curran who also graduated from Lancaster Medical School and is now training to be a consultant.
“There is no one from my wider family with any connection to medicine and I disliked biology at school so the idea was initially quite alien to me and if I’m quite honest I didn’t ever think I was capable,” he said.
Dean was providing security for local pubs before working in mobile phone sales for six years when he met Joanne, who was then a medical student.
He said: “I think the fact that I could mention a health condition that a family member had and she would know about it and be able to tell me the treatment at the drop of a hat was quite impressive.
“And then I also socialised with some of her friends who were on the course and the interest built from hearing about their experiences.
“I started reading Jo’s books about the trials and tribulations of Junior Doctors, got myself an “Anatomy For Dummies” book from the library, learnt some memory techniques and realised that actually, this crazy idea of becoming a doctor might well be doable.”
To support himself at university, he became an Assistant Dean at Graduate College which allowed him free rent in return for helping out.
He also worked in security at summer festivals as well as becoming a clinical support worker in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
He said switching to medicine is one of the best decisions of his life.
“I think overall what attracted me to being a doctor was the fact that there are few jobs that are so multifaceted and rewarding,” he said.
“But mostly I like the fact that you are helping people.”
Dean and Jo plan to marry in August 2018.
He said: “I’m proud of her and eternally indebted to how much she has changed my life, one of the many reasons I asked her to marry me...luckily she said yes!”