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Shining the light on a medical career, Women and Business lecture series continues...

Women and Business welcomes medical Professor to Kilgraston School


Continuing its Women and Business lecture series, Kilgraston School was delighted to welcome Tayside medical expert, Sally Ibbotson, Professor of Photodermatology and Consultant Dermatologist, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School.

Women and Business – leading ladies

The School’s series of talks has, so far, hosted specialists from the fields of accountancy, law, journalism and private enterprise. Future visits include a Professor of Stem Cell research, the Commercial Director of Gleneagles, an engineer with SSE and a leading orthodontist.

Lectures give senior school pupils the opportunity to hear, first hand, from industry experts, while also being given the chance to speak to them on a one-to-one basis.

Medically minded

Prof Ibbotson spoke to pupils about the route her career had taken, including a spell as a Harvard Medical School Research Fellow in Boston, where she conducted photochemistry research: “Take every opportunity,” she told the 80 pupils, “During my medical student days and career, I’ve spent time studying and working in Sydney, Vancouver and even Bermuda, where I had the chance to focus on paediatrics.”

Initially attending Leeds Medical School – qualifying with a first class honours degree in biochemistry and honours in her medical degree – Prof Ibbotson also completed a postdoctoral thesis in blood clotting disorders and diabetes:  “I had wonderful mentors there who sparked my interests in blood clotting and leg ulcers and, ultimately, led to my specialism in dermatology.”

Moving back to Newcastle, the Professor took up postgraduate dermatology training, developing an interest in the effects of sunlight on the skin, where there was “lots of dedicated research into the effects of different wavelengths of light on the diagnosis and treatment of different types of skin diseases.”

Clearly still very passionate about her profession, Prof Ibbotson explained her research into light and skin to the girls, for example describing how pharmaceutical industries have requirements to investigate how drugs may interact with UV light on the skin and that the Photobiology Unit at Dundee University carried out research in this field: “Many drugs are light-sensitising and need to be thoroughly investigated,” she told the audience, “we also specialise in photodynamic therapy, a treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer and sun damage, which combines a drug that makes cells sensitive to light with exposure to visible light.”

Careering ahead

The audience, many of whom were considering a medical career, learnt about necessary undergraduate qualifications. At Dundee University, assessment is based on school exam results, UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) and MMI interview.

“Medicine is very competitive, with approximately one in ten applicants being offered a place” explained Prof Ibbotson, “that’s the bad news! But the good news is that it is an extremely rewarding career and there are lots of options regarding career choices with a medical degree, along with a 100% graduate employment rate.”

One Sixth Form pupil, who has been offered places to read Medicine at four Scottish universities, also addressed the girls: “I approached my GP practice and was given a few days’ work experience,” she said, “But also, I kept being told how important ‘soft skills’ were so I’ve found taking my Higher Drama very helpful with communication.”

At the end of the lecture, pupils quizzed the Professor on various routes through a medical career, including general practice, medical and surgical specialties and one enquiry regarding plastic surgery: “There are some very focussed young ladies here.”

The next generation

As well as being the Head of the Photobiology Unit at Dundee University, the Professor told pupils that she continues with research and teaching,particularly enjoying her involvement with the undergraduate medical student programme.

“Early in my career, I was lucky enough to be mentored very well,” she concluded, “so it is always a complete pleasure to offer guidance to the next generation of medical enthusiasts.”

Kilgraston School was very privileged to have welcomed Professor Ibbotson.

A packed house at Kilgraston School for Professor Ibbotson’s lecture on 13 March 2020

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