A new course designed to spawn the next generation of clinical researchers has been set up at Imperial College London in the UK.

The Graduate Entry Medicine course at Imperial College is a compressed version of the existing MBBS BSc (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) programme that will train science graduates to become medical doctors over four years, rather than the six years required for the undergraduate MBBS course.

According to Professor Stephen Smith, principal of the college’s Faculty of Medicine, the new course will “produce first-rate clinicians with the skills and expertise to undertake first-rate research.”

It will take 50 graduate students per year, complementing Imperial’s annual undergraduate medical intake of 286 students. In the first, fast-track year of the course, graduates will supplement their existing knowledge as well as taking a clinical foundation course and an introductory clinical attachment. They will then join students on the existing six-year course in their three clinical years.

Topping up the pool

As the former chairman and chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, the rector of Imperial College, Sir Richard Sykes, has a personal stake in making sure the pool of clinical researchers in the UK is regularly topped up.

Sir Richard retains strong links to the pharmaceutical industry as vice-chairman of Lonza Group, chairman of the Healthcare Advisory Group of APAX, chairman of MerLion Pharmaceuticals and non-executive director of Abraxis BioScience. “As medicine becomes ever more complex, we are going to need academic doctors – specialists who understand the science beneath the pathology,” he commented.

The Graduate Entry Medicine course is part of Imperial College’s broader initiative to create a new Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) in partnership with London’s Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust and St Mary’s Hospital NHS Trust. Subject to consultation, the two hospitals will merge into a single NHS Trust and join with Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine to form the AHSC as a healthcare organisation integrating research, education and training.

The three institutions combined are one of two NHS-university partnerships (the other is King’s College Hospital NHS Trust teamed with King’s College London) recently awarded government funding of £9.5 million over five years to host National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Centres for Patient Safety and Service Quality. Their remit is to “bring together National Health Service (NHS) professionals with academic experts from a wide range of backgrounds, including management and the social sciences, to focus on investigating ways to improve the care of patients.”