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Covid-19 frontline

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Exeter University was established in 1838 and has long held an important role within the city of Exeter, providing the city not only with world-class education, but jobs and culture too.

Its role within the local community has never been more important than during the Coronavirus pandemic. In spring 2020, 95 final year students from the Peninsular Medical School chose to graduate early (in virtual ceremonies from their homes and gardens instead of the Great Hall), enabling them to start work in hospitals straight away, and thus freeing up more senior medical staff to work in critical care on the front line.

Professor Ian Fussell, Vice Dean Education for the University of Exeter Medical School, said:  “Entering the NHS is always both exciting and nerve-racking for new graduates. Opting to do so in the middle of a global pandemic is exceptional. We know they’re well prepared for the challenges they’re about to face, and health trusts will benefit from their knowledge, skills and attitudes to help bolster the workforce. I’m delighted that we were able to celebrate their achievements online.  We’re so proud of all our students, whether they opted to graduate early or not.  Many are volunteering in other ways, and making a real impact in this crisis.”

Cassie Brewer, 23-year-old Medicine student from Fowey, Cornwall, said: “When Covid-19 was announced a pandemic, I was on my elective year in Australia. The decision to graduate early was easy, I feel ready to step up as a doctor. After experiencing several healthcare systems throughout the world, I know that our beloved NHS is something to be proud of. It will be an absolute honour to become a member of the NHS team a little early.

“Me and my class wanted to become doctors to make a difference and to help people - this is our time to do just that”. Cassie will be working as a junior doctor at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust. 

Tasa Uney, 22-year-old Medicine student from Bristol, said: “I was on my medical elective in Peru whilst the Covid-19 crisis was unfolding in the UK and found it difficult to get back, eventually securing a repatriation flight. When we got back, it was evident that the UK was a different place to the one we left just one month ago.

“I was eager to be put forward for early graduation as I want to have a purpose during this chaotic time and give back to the hospital that supported me as a medical student. I’m really proud of my year group and how everyone has been supporting each other. I feel lucky that we’re such a close community and although we cannot have the conventional graduation we were looking forward to yet, I’m grateful the university are marked the day with an online ceremony.” Tasa started work at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust after her graduation before starting her secured job at Liverpool University Hospitals Trust in August.

Scientists from the university have also been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. They form part of a group of the country’s leading institutions who used the University’s state of the art equipment to ensure that samples from Devon’s patients are used to help to combat the disease.

Students and volunteers from the School of Archaeology were forced to adapt to a new way of working by the pandemic – but the change led to the discovery of many previously undiscovered historic sites. The teams were part of the ‘Understanding Landscapes’ project, and using state of the art LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) technology, they’ve been able to review highly detailed topographical maps of the South West, and in doing so, have discovered 30 prehistoric or Roman settlements, 20 prehistoric burial mounds, and the remains of hundreds of medieval farms, field systems and quarries.

Karime Hassan, chief executive of Exeter City Council said: “The University of Exeter’s influence touches on all aspects of the city, from education in our schools through to health outcomes at the RD&E. It is the backbone of our local economy and has led our transformation from county town to knowledge economy; it is a remarkable institution.’