University of St Andrews: St Andrews graduates first medical students in over 50 years

The first medical students to graduate at the University of St Andrews in over 50 years received their degrees today (Friday 17 June) in the Younger Hall as part of a bumper three weeks of graduation celebrations.

A total of 44 students from ScotGEM, Scotland’s first graduate entry medical programme designed to develop doctors interested in a career as a generalist practitioner within NHS Scotland, crossed the stage to graduate at the Younger Hall in St Andrews, the first from the School of Medicine to do so since 1972.

The ScotGEM programme, run jointly with the University of Dundee and supported by the University of the Highlands and Islands, is designed to develop doctors interested in a career as a general practitioner within NHS Scotland. ScotGEM offers a unique and innovative four-year graduate entry medical programme tailored to meet the contemporary and future needs of the NHS in Scotland.

Taught through a partnership between the Universities of St Andrews and Dundee in collaboration with NHS Fife, NHS Tayside, NHS Highland, NHS Dumfries and Galloway, and the University of the Highlands and Islands, ScotGEM focuses on remote and rural medicine, healthcare improvement and the development of generalists in medicine.

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Gregor Smith, who attended the ceremony, said: “It was a privilege to see the first ScotGEM graduations today. The joy and pride on the faces of graduates, their supporters and course organisers was a sight to behold; congratulations to all of you. Thank you to the wide partnership, led by the University of St Andrews and University of Dundee, who made it possible.”

Professor David Crossman, Dean of Medicine at the University of St Andrews, said: “At its inception we all wanted ScotGEM to be disruptive in the landscape of Scotland’s medical education. It has proven to do that whilst also being highly effective at training doctors. The way that students have been taught and the way they have learnt through innovative aspects of teaching delivery and curriculum design have been revolutionary.

“We are training generalists in medicine for the people of Scotland. The credit for this sits with many people within the distributed network of teachers and administrators throughout Scotland. I am very proud to have been part of this.

“I am delighted to see the first cohort of ScotGEM students graduate and look forward to the programme developing, growing, and going from strength to strength.”

Over the first four years of the ScotGEM programme students have been involved in several projects supporting NHS Scotland activities and rural communities including:

Being involved in a medical charity in Myanmar and making connections with Scotland, including facilitating the donation of radiology equipment from NHS Highland to Yangon
Producing fact sheets for local clinicians in NHS Fife that greatly supported clinical delivery when understanding of Covid-19 was extremely emergent and variable
Participating in the growth of local support systems for young LGBT+ people in Dumfries
Becoming an integral part of remote and rural communities as a volunteer vaccinator whilst in third year
Utilising skills and time to improve the working lives of healthcare professionals by helping them to apply new technology
Creating an online platform to match student volunteers with healthcare staff requesting assistance at the height of the pandemic, including offering childcare, shopping and medication delivery
Using social media positively to demystify medical education and encourage people to consider that medicine might be a possible career for them.
Professor Jon Dowell, Programme Director and Professor of General Practice at the University of Dundee, said: “ScotGEM has been an extraordinary privilege to lead, with over 50% of all clinical teaching led by GPs and nearly half being provided by our more rural partner boards. This represents a highly collaborative new model for medical education in Scotland, and one that specifically reflects the government’s priorities and health service needs. I wish all our graduates the very best of success as they enter the workforce, predominantly in Scotland.

“The design and delivery of the programme is unique in that much of it is delivered by generalist doctors, reinforced by bursts of learning in the hospital environment, and takes place where people live, including many remote and rural locations.

“ScotGEM is another example of innovation in medical education for which the School of Medicine in Dundee has a long-established international reputation and reflects our longstanding efforts to develop clinicians for all areas of Scotland. In particular our strengths in general practice education and healthcare improvement techniques have helped to make this programme so forward looking.”

Callum George, ScotGEM Graduate and Chair of the BMA 2022 UK Medical Students Conference, added: “I really like the fact that ScotGEM is practical early on. From week one, we’re already seeing real patients, and I found that to be really useful for my education. It’s something that made the course stand out for me, and it has really paid off, for sure.

“I’ve really enjoyed the fact that the course has a focus on quality improvement – it’s something that a lot of people don’t necessarily give much thought to, but it’s so important. The idea that as well as being trained how to do the job, you’re being trained how to make things better for your colleagues, and patients of course, is great.

“I spent the third year of my course, ten months in total, in a very remote and rural location, and had a fantastic and educational time there. You learn from a lot of different people on ScotGEM, not just doctors, but also from other members of the multidisciplinary healthcare team. They all have a unique perspective to bring; it’s great to be able to learn from all of them.”

First and second year are led by the University of St Andrews, with third and fourth year led by the University of Dundee. In first year, students are based at the University of St Andrews and within Fife. From second year onwards, the programme includes periods of time living and studying in rural areas of the Highlands and Dumfries and Galloway.

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