November 20, 2020, by School of Medicine

50 at 50: The First Year of Graduate Entry Medicine

I was delighted to be asked to do this blog to reflect on my time as a student at the University of Nottingham and talk about coming back to the University as a member of staff 

Julie Carson in her cap and gown at Graduation 2007 I started at Nottingham University back in 2003. I still find it hard to believe that this was 17 years ago! This was the first year of the Graduate Entry Medical (GEM) course, the first 18 months being based in Derby 

Being Derby born and bred, but having lived in Leeds during my first degree and subsequently my PhD, I vividly remember my parents sending me a clipping out of the Derby Evening Telegraph, stating a new medical school for graduates was being opened and would be based in Derby. The timing could not have been better. I was looking at moving back home to Derby and medicine was something that I had always wanted to do. It felt like fate. So, with a deep breath, I took the entrance exam, and attended the interview. I remember visiting the site where the medical school was being developed and being so intrigued about what was to come, passing by the building foundations and hoping that I would get in.  

Thankfully, I did. The building was purpose built and very impressive. Although, like any building project, things ran slightly behind. As we started our introductory lecture, I remember them still hammering nails on the doors at the back of the lecture theatre and the stairs that were to run up the middle of the building were still being constructed. For the first few weeks we had to use alternative routes up to the top floors, but it did not matter, we had made it 

The staff were so excited about the new course and the central element, problem-based learning (PBL)Looking back, I am sure they were very nervous about how this first year would go, but it never felt like that and from a student’s perspective things went really smoothly. In PBL we used clinical scenarios to decide our own learning areas. It was a great way to learn, thinking about patients right from the word go. Our cohort included all age groups and all backgrounds. People had given up well-paid jobs and others had relocated their whole families. Because of this breadth of prior experience, GEM students very quickly gained a reputation for asking lots of questions and keeping the staff on their toes! Although we all had very different routes to get there, we all had one common aimthe drive and desire to be doctors. I met friends for life and although we are all now all over the country and indeed the world, we keep in touch. 

Julie Carson smiling at the cameraI have recently had the pleasure of coming back to work at GEM as a PBL facilitatorI do this alongside my job as a GP. I love seeing the new students just starting on their journeys. I am so proud that I still see a variety of ages and backgrounds and that as University we are striving to diversify the medical workforce. My school did not have a high number of students going into medicine and I have no family members who are doctors, I truly believe without GEM (and my amazingly supportive parents)  I would not be a doctor now, doing what I love.  

I now know first-hand, as a member of staff, the drive and determination it takes to provide a world class environment at the University in both education and research and I could not be prouder to be back involvedThe GEM course has obviously developed over the past 17 years but those founding ideas of a course that provides intrigue and clinical enquiry right from day one are still firmly embedded. The GEM course transformed my life and I am so happy to see this continuing in the new students as they just begin their medical careers.  

Thank you for reading this blog and I hope everyone has a wonderful academic year, stay safe.  

By Dr Julie Carson

Posted in 50 Years of MedicineMedicine