Nearly 300 junior doctors have joined the NHS to help tackle the Coronavirus pandemic after Newcastle University helped them graduate online.
The medical students graduated a month early from their five-year degree course following a request from Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, for more help in hospitals and GP practices across the country.
Of those eligible to graduate, 239 joined in the ceremony on Flipgrid, the video platform for teachers and students that is owned by Microsoft. They were able to record and upload their Hippocratic Oaths to a custom Flipgrid created by the university. The promise, to help patients and uphold ethical standards, is an essential part of a student’s progression into the medical profession from university and is usually recited by large groups of students at their graduation ceremony.
However, this wasn’t possible due to the UK-wide lockdown, so Newcastle University created and hosted a virtual ceremony, led by Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Chris Day, who is also a medic.
He said: “No cohort of medical students in peacetime have had to complete their training under the circumstances in which we find ourselves now. Our students are embarking on their careers as doctors amid an extraordinarily challenging time for our NHS and I am extremely proud of each and every one of them.
“We understand how hard our students have worked over the last five years to graduate, and how disappointing it is for them not to have a ceremony, so we wanted to mark the occasion the best way we can virtually.”
As in the traditional ceremony, Professor Day opened the online graduation with a speech before Professor Steve Jones, Head of Medical Education, recited the Hippocratic Oath. The students then filmed themselves reciting the oath at home, before uploading the videos to Flipgrid, where they could be shared with friends and family who weren’t able to be with them.
One of those students was Sabina Wallace-King, who will be working on wards in the NHS.
“After so many years of studying for this moment, it is really exciting to be over the first hurdle and finally be a doctor,” she said. “I am really looking forward to starting work and being able to contribute in whatever way I can.
“Although we couldn’t physically attend a ceremony, or celebrate with friends and family in-person, our online graduation helped us feel part of a community before our new roles on the wards.”
As well as the student oaths, video messages of support were also uploaded to Flipgrid by lecturers, the Medical Director of the General Medical Council, Newcastle University alumna, TV doctor Zoe Williams, former Newcastle and England footballer Alan Shearer, Chi Onwurah MP, Newcastle City Council Chief Executive Pat Ritchie and dozens of NHS staff.
Williams, who has appeared in Trust Me, I’m a Doctor and This Morning, congratulated the graduates and offered a “huge thank you in advance for the incredible contribution you are all about to make when we need you more than ever”.
Newcastle University’s Medical School, which was founded in 1834, offers one of the most highly regarded medical degrees in the UK. Researchers and scientists at the university are working with partners to help develop new therapies and tests to tackle Covid-19. The university has also donated state-of-the-art equipment to the NHS to treat patients and is helping manufacture new equipment.
It plans to celebrate a more traditional ceremony with the students in the future.