Magee welcomes first medical students to Derry

The first 70 students have been welcomed at the first graduate medical school in the North, based at the Magee campus of Ulster University.

Monday, 23rd August 2021, 12:40 pm
Pictured at the opening of the School of Medicine at Ulster University’s Magee campus in Derryare (front row l-r): Professor Carol Curran Executive Dean of the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, Health Minister Robin Swann, Finance Minister Conor Murphy, First Minister Paul Givan, Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Bartholomew, Professor Louise Dubras, Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine, (back row l-r): students: Katie, Roland, Seamus, Michael, Aoife and Nicola.

After a £1m investment, a listed historic building at Magee has been transformed into a state-of-the-art learning environment.

The School of Medicine boasts high-tech, high-spec facilities which will enable Northern Ireland’s future doctors to be nurtured in the heart of the communities they will serve.

As part of the plan for the expansion of the Magee campus, a permanent home for the School of Medicine will be located on the riverfront, on the Strand Road in the years to come.

New medical student Aoife pictured in the UU School of Medicine.

Professor Louise Dubras, Foundation Dean at the School of Medicine, Ulster University said: “I’m so excited to greet our new students on this momentous day which I have looked forward to for years. I hope that the School, the University and the City itself will encourage a sense of belonging and pride in our region’s future doctors.

“I am very proud of our new School of Medicine which in itself marks the continued transformation of the Magee campus into a hub for Health and Innovation, as a pre-emptive part of the Derry and Strabane City Deal. Medical schools are sometimes located in a hospital setting but I want our students to learn near the city’s GPs and the population they will go on to care for. The School of Medicine will act as their home, a welcoming place, for the future doctors who are embarking on a challenging yet hugely rewarding journey with us.”

The first cohort of students have a wide range of related and non-scientific backgrounds from politics to investment banking, radiography, management consultancy, optometry, forensic science, nursing and even a previous lecturer in Irish at Magee.

Among the students are 24-year-old Aoife, who was born in Derry but now lives in Donegal.

“My younger brother was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 16 and caring for him prompted my early interest in a career in medicine. I was unwell when I did my Leaving Cert and found myself just short of the points for medicine so I opted to study optometry. More recently I worked alongside a pediatric consultant ophthalmologist and this further clinical experience helped to solidify my passion for medicine,” Aoife said.

She said it is her dream to train and work in the North-west as a doctor.

Nicola, who is from Antrim, had a career in investment banking before opting to enter the School of Medicine.

“There are quite a lot of similarities between the careers despite their vast differences, such as the fast pace, high pressure environment, significant responsibility and lifelong learning. I feel the skills I’ve built, along with valuable life experiences working and living in Belfast, Dublin, Vancouver and London (and soon to be Derry) will stand me well in my new career.”

Seamus, who is from Dublin, previously worked as a lecturer in Irish at Magee before becoming a political advisor on universal community-based healthcare in Ireland.

“I met lots of healthcare experts who all said that recruitment of new staff to the Health Service was key and graduate entry needed to be extended to those with wider backgrounds and lived experience so I took them at their word and applied. Further inspiration came in the form of my cousin from Limavady who left her job to study nursing at Magee aged 45 and loved the experience so I thought, if she can do it, so can I.”

Roland, from the Gold Coast, Australia, has spent the last five years working as a CT radiographer in Brisbane and Queensland but always dreamed of being a doctor.

“I have always strived to become a doctor from a young age, and working in a multidisciplinary team dealing with patients has motivated me to pursue that dream. Having the opportunity to study medicine at Ulster University has been an achievement and will be a new adventure.”

Speaking at the opening of the School of Medicine, First Minster Paul Givan said: “This is a momentous day, not just for Ulster University and the students who will study here at the Magee Campus, but for Londonderry and the whole of Northern Ireland.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “This is a landmark day for Derry and the whole of the North West. The opening of Ulster University School of Medicine will attract students from far and wide to study at Magee, providing a significant boost to the local economy and greatly benefiting the wider health service.”
Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, also met with some of the first cohort of students at the School of Medicine.

He said: “I have always been an advocate for the opening of the School so it is great to see this vital project which was committed to in New Decade, New Approach, coming to fruition. It will bring significant benefits to the North West together with the Derry & Strabane City Deal.”

Health Minister Robin Swann commented that it was an ‘historic occasion’ for the students.

“They are at the forefront of a hugely exciting initiative which will play an important and significant part in helping provide the doctors who will serve this society for many years to come. They can expect to undertake much of their learning in hospitals and general practices across the north west of Northern Ireland and I know that they will be we warmly embraced both by the clinical educators and the general public they come into contact with,” he said.

“I very much hope that over the next four years, they not only successfully complete their medical degrees, but ultimately choose to pursue their medical careers here.”

Welcoming the students, Professor Paul Bartholomew, Vice Chancellor of the University said: “Our vision for the School of Medicine is to be nationally and internationally recognised for excellence so we can competitively recruit and retain high quality staff and students; produce doctors able to deliver whole-person care with skill, teamwork and compassion for the benefit of people across Northern Ireland and beyond.”

Dr Tom Black, BMA NI Council Chair, said it was ‘fantastic to see the years of lobbying and hard work come to fruition’.

“BMA had for years said we needed to have another medical school as we need to train more doctors locally with the anticipated result being that they will chose to stay and work in Northern Ireland thereby increasing our workforce at a critical time.”

Meanwhile, the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) Medical Director, Dr Catherine McDonnell, said the opening of the School of Medicine is a ‘significant milestone for the Western Trust and for the wider North West region’.

“The students beginning their studies here today will hopefully go on to become the Doctors and GPs of the future, not only serving the North West region but playing an important part in the future development of medical provision across the region and on behalf of the Western Trust I would like to extend our support and well wishes to them all.”