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Picture of first year medical student Laurnea Pemberton holding two edge hill certificates

News story

Student who defied expectations to study Medicine awarded for encouraging others do the same

Publish date: March 29, 2022

A student who has exceeded expectations to study medicine to help others with her brother’s condition has been awarded two Edge Hill Scholarships.

A student who has exceeded expectations to study medicine to help others with her brother’s condition has been awarded two Edge Hill Scholarships.

First-year Medicine student Laurnea Pemberton, from Manchester, has received both the On-Course Excellence Scholarship and the University Scholarship for her extracurricular commitment to getting young people, whatever their background, to consider a career in medicine.

Laurnea first considered being a doctor following the death of her 15-year-old brother from Muscular Dystrophy. She wants to help those who suffer from the debilitating condition – one that has a limited life expectancy.

From a deprived area, Laurnea had additional hurdles to overcome:    

“I’m from an area where expectations are low. While some teachers in my school were encouraging, there was a general ethos of not pushing – an it’s-fine-if-you-don’t-get-there mentality. They were getting me to consider nursing or a career as a physician associate. It’s not that these are bad career choices, but I had set my sights on medicine. One teacher got behind me when I was beginning to doubt myself and got me to apply to Edge Hill. I’m forever grateful.”

Laurnea had the opportunity of a foundation year ahead of her five-year degree in Medicine at Edge Hill. This is offered to students in the North West of England who meet specific criteria. This may include being a care-leaver or being the first in their family to go to university. Placements and a focus on study and academic skills ensure students start the main degree course on a level footing with those from more traditional educational backgrounds.

Laurnea is keen to pay back the encouragement and opportunities she’s enjoyed so far, doing everything she can to widen participation. She was involved in a conference with Edge Hill, Liverpool and Lancaster Universities looking at how to make medicine more representative and has worked with the General Medical Council (GMC) on how changing the curriculum could widen access to the profession.

She’s also worked with sixth forms in the North West, taking part in workshops and mock interviews. All her work has the same aim:

“I don’t want anybody to think their background is a barrier, and my story helps them see that. I commonly see other young people with ‘imposter syndrome’. They may be academically ready, but they don’t have any relatable role models in the profession. While many medical students follow their parents into the profession and can fund themselves, I want them to see that it’s not an exclusive club. Determination and the right support can help you achieve your ambitions.”

First year medicine student Laurnea Pemberton looking at x-ray image
Laurnea Pemberton

Laurnea is using her £4,000 to help with commutating costs and plans to use it to fund her travel and equipment costs when she goes out in the community to promote careers in medicine.

While she has just started her degree course proper and has a lot of hard work ahead, she is staying focused on her ambition. She wants to specialise in paediatric neurological surgery – a career to honour and remember her brother and find ways to improve the prognosis of Muscular Dystrophy.

She also remains committed to improving participation by being a role model to others as her career progresses.

Dr Peter Leadbetter, Programme Lead for the Foundation Year to Medicine, nominated her for the awards:

“As a first-generation black female medical student from a deprived area, Laurnea understands the barriers that many face to access and participation in medicine and higher education. She is an exceptional role model… She consistently demonstrates outstanding commitment and resilience and recognises that many of the barriers to participation and access to medicine have been exacerbated by the current Covid-19 pandemic. She… <also> has an in-depth understanding of local community issues, which is critical to her continued involvement in widening access and participation in medicine.”

On-Course Excellence Scholarships are awarded to students that are proud of something they have achieved and can demonstrate determination, commitment and achievement outside their studies.

Edge Hill Scholarships are for students who help raise Edge Hill’s profile through an exceptional contribution to equal opportunities and diversity.

Edge Hill University has a broad programme of scholarships for prospective and current students, recognising practical and academic excellence. 

Edge Hill’s MBChB Medicine with Foundation Year enables eligible students to gain an understanding of key concepts within the field of medicine and meet the required academic level to progress to the five-year Medicine degree.

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