As they opened their A Level results, these Gateshead students were thrilled to discover they were about to become trailblazers.
The three pupils at Emmanuel College will be among the first 50 people to train as doctors in Sunderland.
Surena Sahota, Francesca Cockell and Jack Greenslade, all 18, on Thursday confirmed their places at Sunderland University’s brand new medical school.
Opening its doors this September, Sunderland’s school of medicine is one of five across the country which won a government funding bid last year , aiming to “address the regional imbalance of medical education places” and ensure trained doctors stay and work in the Sunderland area.
In 2018, half of all medical school entrants were privately educated, despite research led by the University of York showing that students from disadvantaged backgrounds actually perform better if they make it to medical school.
The new school aims to open up access to talented students from all backgrounds, and therefore offers free accommodation to first year students, as well as scholarships to help its students with living costs.
This was a big draw for Surena, who will become the first doctor in her family, making her beautician mam and HGV driver dad “indescribably proud”.
She said: “I felt like it was my best chance to get in because they really want to give people who don’t come from a medical background a chance. I did work experience at a hospital and people were surprised that my family didn’t work in the hospital – it feels like to get the opportunities and work experience it’s about who you know, but the Sunderland school is changing that.
“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old, I’ve always wanted to do something that would help people, and then when I discovered I liked science it all came together.
“It’s become a part of me now, I just don’t think I’d feel happy doing anything else, so I’m so happy I got in. I would love to stay at home after I qualify and help people who are from where I’m from.”
For Francesca, the opportunity to stay so close to home, as well as to be part of a small class of just 50 students, made Sunderland an appealing choice.
She said: “I knew I wanted to stay in the North East to stay close to my family, and I really liked the idea of it being such a small course – I feel like every person will have a really good relationship with the tutors.
“I’m incredibly proud to be from the North East, so I will be staying here and working here once I qualify. There is a huge issue with people moving away, especially with the sort of salaries you can earn in London, but I think it’s important to stay here, where I’m from, and give something back.”
“Over the moon” at her daughter’s achievement, mam Siobhan Cockell, a teacher, said: “I couldn’t be more proud of her – she’s a lovely, lovely girl, and this is her dream. When we visited Sunderland for the open day, you could tell they were going to make a success of it, we came away really inspired, we knew that was where she wanted to go.”