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Virtual celebration marks momentous day for Queen's new medical graduands

Yesterday's graduation took the form of an online ceremony with students' names called out in turn

FOR the first time, medical students at Queen's University Belfast have recited the 'sponsio academica' virtually, as they embark on their careers early.

More than 200 new doctors are joining the workforce to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yesterday's graduation-style event took the form of an online ceremony with students' names called out in turn.

Usually, following five years of study, undergraduates take their exams in March/April and then graduate in July. They are then provisionally registered as doctors and commence work in the August after they graduate.

However, as conventional graduations are not possible due to social distancing rules, Queen's staged a virtual celebration and dedication ceremony.

The final year medical students recited the sponsio academica, which encapsulates the principles held sacred by doctors.

"We are delighted to host this online event to celebrate the success of our outstanding new medical graduates," said Prof Pascal McKeown, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.

"Reciting the sponsio academica is an opportunity for these new doctors to state publicly their professional commitment to the service of patients."

Prof Neil Kennedy, Director of the Centre for Medical Education, said it had been a privilege to teach this cohort of students who were entering the workforce early in unique and challenging circumstances.

"Their commitment and selflessness embody the values of our profession. They will be excellent, compassionate doctors who put their patients first," he said.

During their undergraduate training, the students have undertaken several clinical placements in primary care, secondary care, and community-based settings. They have been continually assessed throughout their five-year degree and have met the exceptionally high standards and outcomes required by the General Medical Council.

BMA Northern Ireland medical student committee chairman Leo Mansell said while it was not the graduation ceremony anyone imagined, "these are not normal times and nevertheless we welcome the chance to join the workforce now in the fight against coronavirus".

"The past five years has provided us with all the skills and knowledge we need to become junior doctors, but I don't think anything could have fully prepared us for the times ahead. But we are ready, and this is what we have trained for," he said.

"Every doctor from the most senior to the most junior will have had to learn together and work together during this crisis, but it is that teamwork and commitment to our patients that will see us through."

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