Medicine students graduate early to help on COVID-19 frontline

More than 50 final year Medicine and Medical Imaging students from the University of Exeter Medical School opted to graduate early in 2020, helping to ease pressure on the NHS in the battle against COVID-19.

As foundation year doctors and radiologists, they helped to free up more experienced colleagues to work on COVID-19 wards in the South West.

Among those to take the early graduation option was Molly Dineen, who started working in the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. She said: “I took the option to graduate early because I felt I was ready. Naturally it’s a daunting prospect to start earlier than expected but I’m proud that I’ve come out of medical school as a qualified doctor. At Exeter we’re very fortunate to get clinical experience from day one, and I think this is the best use of my skillset to make a valuable contribution in supporting the NHS in the fight against COVID-19.”

Molly, from Winchester in Hampshire, had to cancel her clinical placements in New York and South Africa to return home at the start of the crisis. “Obviously, it’s gutting to rush home from the trip of a lifetime, but everyone has sacrificed so much. I just wanted to get back home and put my skills to use.”

Medicine student James Farquhar also decided to graduate early and start work in Yeovil, Somerset. He said: “I’m actually excited to graduate early. We feel we’re ready. Some people are saying there’s no better time to join the NHS – there’s a real camaraderie and everyone’s pulling together. At Exeter we complete all our formal learning in Year 4 – so by our final year it’s all about clinical exposure. It’s basically a dry run at being a foundation doctor. Most of us are training as doctors because we want to help people and improve health, and for me this is the best way to make a positive impact.”

As well as the students, more than 30 of Medical School staff have volunteered to support the NHS hospitals, GP practices and local communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Clinical Director for Medicine, Professor Julie Thacker, works two days a week in West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance and Associate Dean of Education, Professor Ian Fussell has also donned his scrubs to help.

University donates PPE to frontline COVID-19 workers in Exeter and Truro

Academics and technical staff at the University of Exeter united to send thousands of items of protective equipment normally used in laboratories to the frontline of the NHS and the local authority, to support the battle against COVID-19.

Hundreds of boxes of gloves, along with face masks, visors and other personal protective equipment (PPE) were sent to the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, Devon County Council and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, to bolster their vital supplies.

In Exeter, technical services business partner Dr Lizzy James coordinated the teams across the Streatham and St Luke’s campuses. She said: “As many of our labs were shutting down for all but the most essential work, we couldn’t think of a better use of these supplies than to get them out onto the front line where they’re most needed. Colleagues have been incredibly generous with time and donations to help make a difference.”

Physicist Dr Dave Phillips set up a database of more than 70 academics, and worked with colleagues to coordinate supplies, totalling thousands of pieces of kit. In Penryn, Professor Will Gaze and Dr Adrian Watson coordinated a donation of more than 120 boxes of gloves alone, along with other items.

Professor Gaze said: “We were delighted to be able to do something to help our fantastic NHS colleagues. We’re the largest microbiology lab in Cornwall, so fortunately we were able to contribute significant amounts of equipment.”

Dave Thomas, Interim Chief Nurse to the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I’d like to say a huge thank you on behalf of all our friends and colleagues at the University of Exeter. This donation will add to the regular supplies that we are receiving and will help us to continue to keep our staff and patients safe.”

University of Exeter KTP plays key role in the manufacturing process of the new COVID-19 vaccine

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Exeter and Smart Manufacturing Ltd is playing a direct and key role in the production process of the new COVID-19 vaccine.

Experts from the University have been working with the Devon-based manufacturing company to optimise the production of some of the equipment used to create the new Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Smart Manufacturing is a small manufacturing company specialised in industrial equipment especially for pharmaceutical and food industries aiming to increase the efficiency and productivity of the customers’ processes.

One of the company’s customers, a Fortune 500 Company with operations in North Devon, produces highly specialised filters used in various pharmaceutical applications – including the new vaccine.

Via the KTP project, part-funded by Innovate UK, KTP Associate, Sam Abraham, has been working on developing and improving the equipment performances full-time since March.

The project has meant that the equipment needed to create the new vaccine can be produced more efficiently and effectively.

Professor Zhongdong Wang, the Pro-Vice Chancellor at Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, said: “I am delighted that the University, and colleagues in the College have played such a pivotal role in helping to deliver this COVID-19 vaccine.

“KTPs such as this not only provide crucial support for businesses across the South -West region and beyond, but also enable researchers to share their expertise where it is most needed.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme - which links forward thinking businesses with specialist academic teams to drive a strategic innovation project - has been running for 45 years and helped more than 14,000 UK businesses innovate for growth.