Medical Sciences at Robinson - further information, October 2018

The Cambridge pre-clinical medicine course (years 1-3)

Aims. The first three years of the course ensure a thorough understanding of the basic principles of the biomedical sciences that underpin modern medicine. It also offers the excitement of research experience in the third year in an internationally recognized laboratory, before embarking on your clinical training. This allows students increasing independence to study subjects in depth and carry out original research. The goal is to produce doctors who can critically evaluate fast-moving medical research and apply this rigorous approach to their clinical practice.

Course structure. All students take the same courses in the first two years, covering physiology, anatomy and biochemistry in the first year (Part 1A) and pathology, neuroscience, pharmacology and endocrinology in the second (Part 1B). You will also have the opportunity to learn some clinical skills through the ‘Preparing for Patients’ modules. However the main focus is on biomedical science. See information for prospective students.

In the third year (Part 2) students choose from a wide variety of courses within the Biological Sciences, or from other departments such as Philosophy, Anthropology, Theology or Modern Languages. You will have the opportunity to gain research skills through a practical project or dissertation.  Popular Part 2 choices include: Pathology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Developmental Biology, Zoology or Experimental Psychology, however many other subjects are available including Law, Social Sciences, the History and Philosophy of Science and Anthropology. Each course offers choices from a number of modules. This exciting mix of opportunities means that Cambridge medical students can interact with students from other disciplines. They can thus develop a detailed understanding of many of the increasingly complex scientific and ethical issues that underpin modern medicine - essential for an effective doctor.

More information about pre-clinical subjects studied each year can be found at the medicine course website. The current undergraduate prospectus is available with full details here.

The clinical course (years 4-6)

Students who successfully complete their undergraduate course, graduate with a B.A. degree and all students now continue their clinical training based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Further details about the clinical Course are available here. For those who decide at an early stage that they are interested in undertaking research as part of their clinical training, the clinical school offers the MB/PhD programme in which students complete a PhD during their clinical training. Advice on clinical school applications is available from the Directors of Studies and clinical fellows.

Why come to Robinson College to read Medicine?

Support for students. As well as developing excellent clinical skills, we seek to equip our students to undertake and lead research to develop the new medical treatments of the future, if they wish to do so. At Robinson we will help you throughout your time here to achieve these goals. Small group supervisions are an informal forum for discussing with experts any difficulties with particular topics. The supervisions will also cover essay writing and practice of examination skills, providing thorough support for all our students, enabling them to achieve their full academic potential.

Summer projects. Through our scientific fellows we help our students arrange clinical and scientific placements during the summer vacation so they can start to put what they have learned into action. In previous years, Robinson 2nd year pre-clinical students have undertaken clinical experience or research projects as far afield as Toronto, Michigan, Siena, Mysore and at Yale medical school. If things go well you may well get the opportunity to begin to publish as part of a research team. An example of a publication by one of our second year students, Fredrika Asenius resulting from her summer project in 2012 is shown here.

Facilities. The college is located a beautiful 15-minute walk (10 minutes by bicycle) from all the lecture halls for medicine. It has excellent accommodation and teaching facilities for supervisions. There is a dedicated Resource Room on G staircase for the use of medical and veterinary students, equipped with models, skeletons and textbooks, and an excellent college library.

Work/life balance. All Robinson students are encouraged to participate in the many social, artistic and sporting activities available throughout the University. Learning to balance the demands of the course with your other activities is an essential requirement for a successful career in medicine. The College has its own Medical Students Society (MedSoc) which arranges talks by distinguished visiting speakers. It also arranges social events with MedSocs in other Colleges, so you get to know students throughout the university. To get a flavour of the diversity of clinical and biomedical expertise available among all college members including undergraduates, you can view the ’focus on medicine’ section of the  Easter 2018 edition of the college magazine ‘Bin Brook’

Robinson College Directors of Studies (DOS) and teaching fellows in medicine.

Together with the teaching fellows, the Directors of Studies in pre-clinical and clinical medicine work to ensure that the college provides outstanding training and mentoring for student doctors throughout their time here. They meet regularly with individual students to review progress and to support them in achieving their full academic potential.  They also provide advice about career development.

Director of Studies: Pre-clinical (first and third year), Dr Andrew Sharkey BA, MA, PhD.

Andrew is a graduate of Cambridge University and did his PhD on vaccine development in malaria at the University of Edinburgh. As pre-clinical DOS, he is jointly responsible with Dr Gary Doherty (see below) for guiding students through the three years of the pre-clinical medicine course. He is based in the department of Pathology, where much of the teaching of medical undergraduates takes place. Andrew supervises the Human Reproduction course in the second year for students from several colleges as well as teaching in Pathology. He also lectures final year students in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neurosciences. His research is focused on the mechanisms responsible for embryo implantation into the endometrium, and infertility. In collaboration with Professor Ashley Moffett in Pathology, he also works on the immunological mechanisms that accompany pregnancy which allow the fetus to develop without being attacked by the maternal immune system. Failure of these can lead to serious diseases of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia, recurrent miscarriage and fetal growth restriction.

Director of Studies: Pre-clinical (second year undergraduates) and clinical students, Dr Gary Doherty, BA, MB, BChir, MA, PhD.

Dr Gary Doherty is a Consultant Medical Oncologist, specialising in Lung Oncology and Neuro-oncology.  The clinical part of the post is based at Addenbrooke’s and the Royal Papworth Hospitals. This is only the second appointment in the UK for a Medical Oncologist specialising in central nervous system tumours. Gary studied Medicine at Trinity College, Cambridge, and conducted his PhD research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology where he discovered a novel pathway by which material enters cells, and showed how this was linked to cell migration.  He has been a Henry Fellow at Harvard University and is now a Consultant and Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Oncology.  He splits his time between his Clinical work in Medical Oncology, and his research into mechanisms of tumour suppression and oncogenesis.  Dr Doherty has supervised Medical students for many courses at the undergraduate and clinical level since 2005, and currently teaches Biology of Disease and Clinical Pathology, primarily for students at Robinson College.  He teaches on the Stage 2 Oncology course, and is a mentor for junior clinical academic trainees and students on the Translational Medicine and Therapeutics MPhil programme. Further details of his research and clinical interests are available here.

Director of Studies: Clinical, Professor Peter Hutchinson FRCS,

Professor Peter Hutchinson is NIHR Research Professor at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge and an Honorary Consultant Neurosurgeon at Addenbrooke's Hospital and head of the Department of Neurosurgery. He also conducts research into head injury, stroke and brain metabolism. Peter attended Judd Grammar School in Tonbridge, Kent and trained in medicine at Barts Hospital in London, where he became fascinated with clinical neurology, and neurosurgery in particular. Junior doctor appointments at Barts, Homerton and the John Radcliffe Oxford, culminated in his appointment as a Neurosurgical Registrar at Addenbrooke's.

During his PhD he investigated derangements in brain chemistry following injury and stroke. This research involved the invention of a special access device to insert probes into the brain to monitor function, which achieved a Millennium Product Award. Following his PhD, Peter was awarded a prestigious Senior Scientist Surgical Fellowship from the Academy of Medical Sciences. This appointment allows him to combine treating patients with brain and spine conditions, with his research interests. Peter also has extensive teaching experience both at undergraduate and postgraduate level, including teaching on the Neuroscience module at Addenbrooke's Hospital. Further details of Peter’s research are available here.

Peter has a number of other interests including teaching on Advanced Trauma Life Support Courses, directorship of the head injury charity, Headway Cambridgeshire, and Chief Medical Officer for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Peter’s clinical work in the trauma team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital was featured in the BBC documentary ‘Life Savers’ transmitted on BBC1 on 20th June 2013.

Additional Teaching Fellows

All Cambridge medical students attend the same lecture and practical courses.  These are supported by weekly supervisions organised by their college in groups of 2-4 students for each subject. These are led by biomedical scientists or clinicians with relevant research experience. Robinson has a strong and dedicated group of supervisors and teaching fellows. Many are themselves clinically qualified and involved in lecturing, teaching and examining university courses as well as in research. They are well placed to help our students realize their full academic potential and achieve the highest clinical standards possible for their patients. Current Robinson Teaching Fellows and College lecturers are listed below together with links to their research and teaching interests. Many other lecturers and fellows in other colleges are also involved in teaching specialist subjects to our students at relevant points in their medical training.

Dr Duncan Astle  (Programme Leader at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge) 

Professor G E Berrios   (Professor in Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry)

Professor Carlos Caldas  (Professor of Cancer medicine, Department of Oncology)

Dr Colin Crump (Senior lecturer in virology, Department of Pathology)

Dr Brian McCabe (University lecturer in Neuroscience (retired), Department of Zoology)

Professor Tony Milton (Professor (emeritus), Department of Pharmacology)

Dr Olivier Restif (Alborada Lecturer in Epidemiology and disease dynamics)  Director of studies in veterinary science at Robinson college

Dr Judith Richards (Consultant Medical Microbiologist, Deputy Director of infection control)

Dr Paul Schofield (Reader in Biomedical informatics, Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience)  Director of studies in veterinary science at Robinson college

Dr Teresa Tiffert (Senior lecturer, Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience)

How to apply to study Medicine at Robinson

Once you have decided to apply to the Cambridge medical course on your UCAS form, you can also select a college of preference. (Alternatively you can submit an Open Application and allow a college preference to be assigned at random).  This is an entirely personal choice and students have many different reasons for selecting a particular college or for making an open application. We would strongly suggest that you come to the university and college Open days, to talk to students and Admissions tutors to find out whether Robinson is right for you. More information about how to apply is available on our how to apply page. This also has details of our open days.

Work Experience.

During the interviews we will be interested in what you have done to gain understanding of what a career in medicine will involve. We would normally expect applicants to show that they have tried to find out about current developments in the subject through wider reading as well as practical work.  This could involve volunteering at the local hospital, GP surgery or with charities working in nursing homes and other settings. There is no set formula and we understand that applicants may not always be able to get as much experience in clinical settings as they would like. Working with local youth groups, coaching in sport or helping other students with academic work are all valuable ways to develop skills such as listening and communication that you will require in addition to your academic side, to be successful in medicine.

For those considering medicine the General Medical Council has an excellent website with answers to many FAQs about this career choice. GMC FAQs.    

Document Updated October 2018