The annual rituals of the festive season and the rapidly-approaching close of 2017 provide the chance to reflect and to look to the future. 

A blog by Professor Iain T Cameron, Dean of Medicine

We live in turbulent times, with widespread disruptive change impacting on all that we do.  But, whilst change can be unsettling, it’s often for the better, and brings new opportunities.  Two such opportunities are the expansion of undergraduate medical student numbers and the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.

Recognising the need to increase the supply of doctors, in 2016, the Secretary of State for Health proposed expansion of medical student numbers in England by 1,500.  The call for applications from existing and new providers of medical education requested a focus on widening access from under-represented social groups and from geographical regions that often struggle to attract trainees, and on meeting future workforce needs – including enhancing recruitment to general practice and psychiatry.  Such challenges aren’t new.  In November 1967, the decision to award a new medical school to Southampton was announced following the report of the Todd Commission.  As explained in the foreword of Southampton Medical School: the First 50 Years1, the Commission was “responding to a predicted shortfall in the medical workforce, a requirement to deliver more care in the community and a need for an innovative approach to medical education with a focus on clinical skills, mental health and the link between health and social care.”  Building on our strong track record of pioneering medical education and widening access, we look forward to the first cohort of 19 additional students joining Southampton in September 2018.

The recent Industrial Strategy White Paper2 also provides significant opportunities for medicine, health and life sciences.  The Strategy outlines five key themes (ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment, and places) and four grand challenges (artificial intelligence, clean growth, ageing society, and future mobility).  The Strategy will be delivered through four sector deals.  The Life Sciences Sector Deal3, published on 6th December 2017, demonstrates the pivotal role that life sciences will play, with actions to increase investment in R&D; to strengthen the environment for clinical trials; to enhance digital diagnostics and precision medicine; and to fuel investment by life sciences companies in the UK.  Central to this will be the creation of regional clusters; collaboration between universities, industry and the NHS to improve patient care; and reinforcing the skills base in the UK’s life sciences workforce.  As stated in the ambitious Sector Deal, “Nowhere is innovation more life-changing than in medicine, healthcare and their associated fields.”

Looking back over the past 12 months, we’ve had another great year and are now ranked 81st in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for Clinical, Pre-Clinical and Health disciplines – 11th of the UK universities in the top 100.  Significant accomplishments in 2017 included the graduation of our first students on the MSc Genomics programme, record levels of external research awards and individual fellowships, and reaching the final phase of the £25 million campaign for the Centre for Cancer Immunology, with the official opening scheduled in the spring.  Congratulations and thank you to all of you for your contributions to these and many other tremendous achievements.

Finally, it’s a strange feeling to be on my last lead-up to Christmas as Dean.  Looking back, much has happened since I moved over the road from the Princess Anne Hospital to the Head of the School of Medicine’s office in December 2003!  Thank you once more for your support and for the important part you’ve played in the Faculty’s successes over the years.  It’s a huge privilege to work with so many dedicated and talented students and staff – and it’s been a particular pleasure to celebrate the achievements of new graduates each year and to see colleagues flourish as their careers develop.

Despite external and internal challenges, there continue to be many opportunities for Medicine across education, research and enterprise and we have much to look forward to.

In the meantime, I hope that you have a great break over the holidays and I wish you all the best for the New Year.

Iain T Cameron

  1. ISBN 978-1-5272-0829-2
Challenges and opportunities

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