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A major milestone has been reached in the development of Ulster University’s Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) with the appointment of Professor Louise Dubras as Professor and Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine.

The GEMS will enhance the provision of medical education currently available in Northern Ireland and will be transformative for Health and Social Care and its workforce.

Professor Dubras will oversee all aspects of the implementation and delivery of this visionary project, with a clear focus on strengthening the medical profession in Northern Ireland and improving patient care.

Prior to joining Ulster University, Professor Dubras was Deputy Dean of Medical Education at King’s College London; which is home to the largest medical school in the UK.  She also worked as a GP at Homeless Healthcare Team, Southampton, with special interest in substance misuse and mental illness; she is a council member of the Academy of Medical Educators and a board member of the Association for the Study of Medical Education.

Ulster University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon said:

“I am delighted to welcome Louise to Ulster University and the position of Foundation Dean. Louise’s experience, calibre and expertise in the transformation of medical education and practice will be invaluable in driving forward the project, and ultimately delivering the highly skilled medical workforce Northern Ireland urgently needs.

“This appointment demonstrates our continued, unwavering commitment to the development of the Medical School, to enhancing Health and Social Care and to the North-West.

“At a time when Health and Social Care faces significant challenges with the recruitment and retention of medical staff, GEMS will make a significant contribution to addressing the Northern Ireland wide medical workforce problem providing new opportunities to enable more people from a range of backgrounds to become doctors, which is increasingly important.  

“I am encouraged by the recent announcement by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, that new medical schools in England are being set up to do this and are being deliberately located in areas where it can be hard to recruit and attract new doctors.

“This reinforces our belief that our approach to delivering a new medical school in the North-West is in the best interests of the HSC workforce and will have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of patients, their families and communities across Northern Ireland for decades to come.”

Commenting on her appointment as Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine, Professor Dubras added:

“With a track record for instigating and transforming academic medical programmes; I am looking forward to taking up the role at Ulster University and bringing frontline practitioner experience to bear upon teaching and skills development of a pipeline of new medical talent in Northern Ireland.

“I see this as an amazing opportunity to work with professional colleagues and patients on an initiative which ultimately improves health outcomes for patients and the community.

“I look forward to working in an environment in which I can build on the extensive work already undertaken by finessing the curriculum whilst ensuring research and teaching colleagues thrive and providing an excellent experience for students.  Aligned with this; I look forward to working directly with local stakeholders to match what we deliver to the local need; particularly amongst the General Practitioners and Trusts."

Professor Dubras will work closely with partners across the Health and Social Care sector to ensure they are able to shape and contribute to the work of the GEMS; which aims to address a Northern Ireland medical workforce shortage.

Welcoming the appointment, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Grainne Doran said:

“RCGPNI welcomes additional efforts to increase the population of medical students in Northern Ireland.

“Increasing availability of medical school places is essential to fuel the future NHS workforce. Primary Care and General Practice are under significant pressure - and ensuring that we have a sustainable flow of new GPs to meet the needs of patients in Northern Ireland is essential.

“As part of long-term, strategic workforce planning, emphasis must be given to promoting general practice as a career through increased exposure to general practice in the university curriculum.”

Dr Tom Black, Chair of BMA Northern Ireland’s GP Committee said:

"The appointment of Professor Louise Dubras as Foundation Dean of the GEMS at Ulster University is excellent news for the profession in Northern Ireland and for patients, particularly in Primary Care. We need more doctors working in the NHS and the establishment of a second medical school with an emphasis on GP training will alleviate the crisis in general practice and will help with the transformation of the health service in Northern Ireland.

“Ulster University is to be congratulated for the thorough job they have done on this project and the public of Northern Ireland will benefit with better access to healthcare and higher quality services".

Dr Anne Kilgallen, Chief Executive of the Western Health and Social Care Trust added:

“We welcome the appointment of Professor Dubras to the role of Foundation Dean and congratulate her. Here in Northern Ireland and particularly in the Western Trust, we face challenges with retention and recruitment of medical staff. The establishment of a Graduate Entry Medical School in the North West, with a particular focus on developing training for medical students that values medical role models in primary and community care, would build a talent pool and a real opportunity to transform the way in which we offer care to people into the future.“

Professor Dubras will take up her post on Friday 1st June 2018 and is based at Ulster University’s Magee Campus.