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Programme lead announced for new School of Medicine

One of the region’s leading consultants in elderly medicine and a much-loved mentor to dozens of junior doctors for almost two decades has taken up a key role in the University of Sunderland’s new School of Medicine.

Dr Andy Davies who currently heads up the Falls and Syncope Service and is a consultant in elderly medicine at Sunderland Royal Hospital, has been appointed Undergraduate Programme Lead by the University.

In this role, Dr Davies will lead on delivering the underpinning principles of the new school. Sunderland is one of only five new medical schools to be announced in the UK - established to address the regional imbalance of medical education places across England and to widen access to ensure the profession reflects the communities it serves. The University is collaborating with its health partners to address the chronic shortage of doctors in the North East.

Dr Davies has been involved in teaching and training since 1997 and is regional Foundation Programme Director with responsibility for doctors with differing needs across all the nine acute trusts in the North East and Cumbria. He is an Educational and Clinical Supervisor for foundation doctors and a local Foundation Tutor at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. He delivers workshops on doctors with differing needs at the annual regional Foundation Conference and has presented this work nationally.

He chairs the British Geriatric Society Cardiovascular Section and is responsible for the delivery of two annual, national conferences on the topic of cardiovascular disease in the elderly.

Professor Scott Wilkes, head of the School of Medicine, said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Dr Andy Davies to the University of Sunderland. He brings a unique set of skills which will benefit the students enormously. Andy is a geriatrician at our neighbouring Sunderland Royal Hospital. Our focus in setting up the school has been upon the needs of the NHS which include the increasing elderly population with many medical problems, taking lots of medication and of course those very common problems we see in our society including high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.”

He added: “As well as his 28 years’ experience in the acute hospital sector he brings over 20 years’ experience in teaching undergraduate medical students and junior doctors in training. His insights, knowledge and caring nature will stand our medical students in good stead to become some of the best doctors in our region and beyond in years to come.”

Dr Davies, whose own journey into medicine reflects the student doctors signing up to Sunderland’s programme, said: “I was inspired to join Sunderland as Scott Wilkes is leading the School of Medicine and has a very clear vision for Widening Participation.

“Encouraging students from a similar background to my own and giving them an opportunity to study medicine really inspired me, I want to ensure they get the best support throughout the process.”

Growing up on a terraced street in Manchester, Dr Davies says he was inspired by his father’s own determination to reinvent himself from a clerk in the cotton mills to becoming a head teacher at a primary school.

There was also his experience of living with chronic ill health in the home when his mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when he was just a boy.

He set himself onto a better path of education at a grammar school after passing his ‘eleven plus’ exams, and would later be encouraged by one of his teachers to study medicine.

The path led him to Newcastle University, where he graduated in 1990 and met his wife, a midwife, so beginning his life-long devotion to the North East.

He said: “This is my place now, my two children both grew up in Sunderland and I hope we can engender a love for the region in others with the School of Medicine.

“Once the school is 500 strong, we hope to have people who have that determination to support the local economy and work here as GPs, hospitals doctors or psychiatrists. To invest in the local economy, be part of the fabric of the city – if that happens, it has the potential to add to the transformation of the city, both in terms of health and the local economy.”

Dr Davies will spend three days a week on campus and the rest of the week will be spent continuing his clinical work as a consultant geriatrician at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

“If you want to understand the challenges of clinical medicine while you teach it you need to still be participating even in a reduced capacity,” he says, “you need to know what the challenges are facing junior doctors.”

Dr Davies was set on the path of elderly care medicine by a consultant during his time as a junior doctor and then passing his professional exams.

He explained: “The patients I was meeting at that time were the most vulnerable in society and I felt a sense of responsibility in this area. I also loved the teamwork; caring for the elderly is very much multi-disciplinary  from physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing staff and social workers, we all sat down together to consider the best plan for each patient, and it was inspiring.”

He added: “During my career I have also really enjoyed teaching and developing curriculum and the pastoral care of students.

“Now as Undergraduate Programme Lead at Sunderland, I’ll be working with the lead educational providers across the region – the acute hospitals and mental health trusts.

“I am working with the hospitals in the region to recruit clinical teachers across a range of specialties, my job is to appoint and support them in the delivery of the training in each of the hospitals.

“When the students go to the hospitals in Year 3 to Year 5, they will be supported locally by clinical teachers, and it’s my job to support them in that role.”

What are the qualities Dr Davies will be looking for in the next generation of doctors?

“We want to see students with compassion and understanding, to be respectful of their patients and the need to be skilled communicators,” he says. “They need to see medicine as a science that they love and commit to for as a vocation. To be inquisitive and have an ability to constantly want to evolve and develop.”

Asked what the highlight of his own career has been so far, Dr Davies said: “The greatest achievement has been to work with the students I taught all those years ago and to see them now as fantastic consultant and GP colleagues with the right skills and attitude to do the job and above all to have compassion for their patients.”

About the School of Medicine

Sunderland is one of only five new medical schools, established to address the regional imbalance of medical education places across England and to widen access to ensure the profession reflects the communities it serves. With a track-record of excellence in medical education spanning almost 100 years, the University is now well-placed to address the chronic shortage of doctors in the North East. Focusing on GP and Psychiatric training, the new programme will complement existing medical provision in the region and add to the diversity of medical schools in the UK.