Laura Giles

First cohort of Sunderland Medical School (2019). Bachelor of Medicine/ Surgery (MBChB current)

Laura Giles has always been interested in working in the NHS, and after completing her A Levels at the Sixth Form at Southmoor Academy and work experience at Sunderland Royal Hospital she knew it was the right path for her. She chose to apply to universities in the North East, as she hoped to give back to the community where she grew up and made Sunderland Medical School her first choice after being impressed by the facilities and friendly staff.

Laura was part of the first cohort when it launched in 2019 with the aim of training students to stay in the area to work for the NHS. Laura believes that Sunderland Medical School will allow her to give back to the community that she was raised in, working alongside doctors and medical staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Listen to Laura’s story:

Read the transcript of Laura’s interview:

On wanting to become a doctor

“I was born in Sunderland Hospital up the road, and I went to just a local secondary school. And then I stayed on at that secondary school, then got into sixth form, so sixth form at Southmoor. I never really thought about becoming a doctor just because I thought, oh, probably would never be able to get in because it’s such a sort of privileged background career to do. But I decided to give it a go, so I took a gap year and re-sat my A-levels and I got four A stars and thought, well, you know, I’m going to have to give it a go- like I may as well try. And then I was grateful to get a few offers at medical school. So, I think I knew from day one that I wanted to go to Sunderland. I was the first person at my sixth form to get into medical school like ever, which I was really grateful for”.

On being a trailblazer

“And then after me, I was told a few students the year below my little sister got in the same medical school the year after that. It’s quite an honor to be the first and then quite a lot of students kind of followed. And I like to think it gave other students a bit of confidence to be like, well, if Laura could do it and she came from the same school, same background, then why can’t we?”

Sunderland Medical School

“I think the aim for the first year at my medical school was to get as many local students in, they really were driving for the widening participation, to get students in who wouldn’t usually have the confidence or like the sort of good part in medical school. So it’s a big drive to get people like students like myself in, so there is a lot of local, I think there’s about a third from the north east where you go to uni is sort of stereotypically where you’re likely to sort of continue the career. So, the more students we’ll get from like the North East, the more likely we are to sort of stay in the region. And this is where we need the doctors, need the GP’s and everyone like that to stay in the north east to sort of increase the number of number of doctors that we’ve got in this region. The city of Sunderland brought me up to be a doctor so I want to stay in this region and give back to the community. I was kind of brought up and, and the schools around the hospital and just to be around my family, really. But I really liked Sunderland University on the open day for just the facilities, the staff, the staff were lovely, really welcoming.

So, I think I just felt very just at home when I was at Sunderland University, whereas at other universities, I might have felt just kind of like another number or another student, but then Sunderland was a little bit different. The way we’re taught, the basic anatomy of the body and we have a sort of 3D table. It’s basically like a big iPod, it’s flat and it’s quite big and it’s basically just like a dissecting table where you click the button instead of actually cutting the body open, you click the button and dissect layer by layer in the anatomy and it’s really handy for like students who may not necessarily want to dissect and things like that. But it also gives students who do that opportunity to see the human body like on an actual screen and how it actually looks like. I don’t think I could think of anything else that the University would need for me to become a doctor. They’ve just got a new dissection room so they can now use cadavers to look at the human body. But apart from that I can’t think of anything that the University don’t have that I would need to know. I mean we’ve all gone through successfully and practice well as a doctor and I think they’re quite content with what they’ve got”.

Staying in Sunderland

“My hope is to stay in the local area, even to work in Sunderland Hospital would be really good, I really like the hospital, it’s a great environment to be in and I think a lot of my friends joke on being like, ‘Oh, you’re just going to work and whatnot and grow old in the hospital that you were born in!’. But it’s a great hospital, that’s friendly and it’s well connected to the University. It’s funny because my granddad, I’ve never seen him cry throughout my whole life. He’s just like a stereotypical Mackem and just never cried.  The minute I got into medical school, he was sobbing, bless him. And now every time I tell him, ‘Grandad, I’ve passed my exams or I’ve been offered to do…like this interview, he just starts crying”.

Aiming high

“I think it’s very much the case of nothing is impossible. You don’t want to hold yourself back when it’s something you really, really want to do then just go for it. There’s no harm in trying- and just give it your best. Talk to people, talk to students who go to medical school, talk to doctors, even students you don’t know and ask for advice and help on how to really push yourself to get in a medical school.

But I’d never say it’s impossible because if I can do it, I think a lot of other students can as well”.

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