New doctors graduate early to help COVID-19 effort

The newest cohort of doctors from the University of Aberdeen will today (Friday, April 17) graduate early so that many of them can join the frontline and support the NHS and the COVID-19 effort.

With guidance from the General Medical Council, the graduation date of final year medical students at the University was brought forward by nine weeks so that the Class of 2020 could be able to respond to the needs of the NHS.
Those of the cohort who were able to volunteer to join the NHS effort will begin work in a supported and supervised environment across Scotland and the UK by the end of this month.

Given lockdown restrictions, the 179 medical graduates will take their first step towards their new career following a virtual graduation ceremony at 11am – ‘attending’ the online event via a University video conferencing tool and hearing from key figures in the Medical School.

Professor Rona Patey, the Director of the Institute for Education in Medical and Dental Sciences at the University, will be first to address the event. She said:
“Our medical graduates will begin their careers by applying their skills and knowledge to support the response to an unprecedented world health crisis. We are immensely proud of their achievements and are confident that they are prepared and ready for the challenges ahead.”

Following Professor Patey’s address, all names of the graduating class will be read out by Professor Colin Lumsden, Lead of the Medical Programme and Honorary Consultant Paediatrician with NHS Grampian.

Dr Wendy Watson, who heads the fifth and final year of Medicine, will then ask the class to stand and take a special oath – with versions of it sworn by Aberdeen medical graduates since the 1880s, marking their success and transition into one of the world’s most trusted professions. Professor John Duncan, Head of Medical Teaching for the Highlands, will then tell the cohort of the oath’s importance particularly in the current climate of a global pandemic.

Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya, Head of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, will give the closing address. He added: “Everything the Class of 2020 have learned over the last five years will be tested in the weeks and months to come and they will succeed because they are absolutely ready. We are immensely proud of our new doctors and wish them the very best in these unprecedented times.”

Ordinarily, medical students would have been ‘capped’ on June 19 at the Summer Graduations but the pandemic forced their cancellation. Instead they will be pre-registered as doctors next week by the General Medical Council (GMC) after the UK Government went out to the GMC and Medical Schools last month to ask if early registration was possible in order to help support the NHS.

The Class of 2020 were then asked if any would like to volunteer, and of those in a position to do so, the overwhelming majority were able to respond rapidly.
The Interim Foundation Doctors will have clinical and educational supervisors in their clinical placements as well as peer group buddy schemes and pastoral supervision.

One of the new cohort of doctors soon to join the frontline is Callum Eddie (23) from Aberdeen whose mother is a GP. He will be working as a junior doctor in Aberdeen for the next two years. He said: “Being a doctor is all I've ever wanted to be so I am looking forward to doing what I can.

“In the last few weeks I have been in awe of the NHS. Every single person working, or volunteering, has been absolutely incredible, and it has been amazing to hear everyone’s support every Thursday evening too.

“The amount of work everyone has put in, and the danger people are putting themselves in on the front lines is absolutely admirable.

“I am sure my classmates would agree, the way we can contribute to the effort to tackle COVID-19 is to do literally whatever is needed. The way I see it is, we are all in this together, healthcare professionals and the general public included, and if we all continue working together as a team we will get through this.”

Philip Calderwood (24), originally from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, will be working as an interim FY1 doctor in Aberdeen as part of a two-year Foundation programme with NHS Grampian. He said: “There are a few mixed feelings, to be honest. We have been training for our first day on the wards for a long time now and we know we are ready, but this particular challenge could not have been predicted.

“We know that we have a great support network in the University which is reassuring. I think everybody wants to be of some help with the skills that they've worked hard at developing.

“I hope to repay the time and effort invested in me by working hard for the teams I am with, and by delivering the best care that I can to the patients I meet.”
Nadia Crolla (26) from Glasgow will be joining one of the medical wards at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and feels ready to take on the unique challenges. She said: “The Medical School has prepared us well for the stress and uncertainty that comes with being a doctor and although things are not functioning as normal at the minute, we have huge amounts of support from staff and colleagues to get us through this.

“The majority of being a good doctor doesn't come from books, it comes from how you communicate with people and how you maintain empathy in the most trying of times and the medical school have done a stellar job to prepare us for this.”

Originally from Aberdeen, Lucy Buchanan (23) hopes she will be able to stay on in Shetland where she has been doing her GP placement. Although experiencing mixed emotions at the prospect of life on the frontline, she is keen to get be involved in helping with the NHS COVID-19 effort in any way she can. She said: “As long as I can be helpful in taking pressure off the more experienced doctors, and ensure I look after patients to the best of my ability, I'll be content and an eager beaver in whatever role comes my way.”

Peterhead’s James Murray (24), who expects to do his volunteering at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said: “Having undertaken 5 years of teaching and clinical placements, the programme at Aberdeen has equipped us with the skills and confidence to enter the profession safely during these unprecedented times. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all medical school staff for their teaching, guidance and support over the course of my degree.”

Mhairi Macfarlane, from Insch, is waiting to start as an interim foundation year one doctor in London, with the hope of contributing to the effort to tackle Covid-19. She added: “I feel that having completed very practical placements in my final year of Medicine, studying in both the Acute Medical Admissions Unit and the Emergency Department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, the University has prepared me well to now begin as a new doctor in this unprecedented time.

“I hope my contribution will help to ease some of the workload due to the increased numbers of patients, as well as the increased numbers of staff members becoming ill.”

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