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Aston University's new £60m medical school to tackle child death blight

Institute reveals ground-breaking plans to launch new training and research hub for next generation of local doctors

Edward Moss Photography
Aston University

Birmingham is to get a second medical school to train a new generation of doctors to help cut the city's 'shocking' infant mortality rate - with a £60 million complex at Aston.

Aston University today unveiled proposals for a brand new medical school, strengthening the city's status as a centre of health innovation and research.

Aston Medical School (AMS), which is due to open in autumn 2017 and will be based on the university's city centre campus, will cater for 100 students each year and include a research institute focused on vascular disease.

The city has a terrible mortality rate for children under the age of one - in 2013 a total of 130 died - a rate of 7.5 deaths per 1000 births. This compares with a national average of 4.4 deaths per 1,000 births.

The rate is also worse than in countries like Cuba, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia.

The Aston Medical School, backed by trusts and clinics throughout the region, will have a strong emphasis on individual scholarships and financial assistance programmes to encourage social mobility within the West Midlands.

A total of 20 scholarships will be specifically earmarked for students within Birmingham and the Black Country from 'hard to reach communities'.

The remainder will be open to international students and students from across the UK which will in turn help to fund the scholarship programme.

Trainee doctors will study for five years and qualify with a MBChB - a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery and a 'mini' business MBA, providing clinical and business training.

The school's research arm - the Aston Medical Research Institute - will focus on vascular disease and in particular areas concerning women's health such as pre-natal conditions and problems during pregnancy, mental health and complications brought on by age-related illness.

The development of a new medical school will build upon Aston University's pioneering health research, including optometry, age-related illnesses such as dementia and chronic diseases including diabetes.

The university is also home to the Aston Brain Centre, which specialises in epilepsy, dyslexia, autism, ADHD and sleeping disorders.

It provides a referral service for the National Health Service and houses a brain scanner specifically for children - one of only three in the world.

Professor Asif Ahmed, pro-vice-chancellor for health at Aston University who is leading the project, said an additional medical school for Birmingham would complement and strengthen the city's reputation for healthcare innovation.

"The Aston Medical School will create local doctors for the local region and will undertake research capable of addressing the region's serious health inequalities," he said.

"Birmingham as a city has an extremely young population and shockingly its infant mortality rate is 60 per cent above the national UK average.

"This serious problem, and others such as high levels of obesity and early death rates, are all regional and UK-wide issues that we want to address through our training and research.

"I'm extremely excited to be involved in this project which aims to tackle social mobility, infant mortality and engage communities at a low cost to the public purse.

"The last medical school to be created in Birmingham was in 1825. This is a really big thing for the city and can have a dramatic impact on local health."

Professor Dame Julia King, vice-chancellor of Aston University, said: "A new medical school would be of fantastic benefit to the region's health and economy and would be a fitting tribute to the institution's 50th year as a university in 2016.

"We've a proud heritage in medicine, opthalmic and pharmaceutical research.

"A new medical school, training the next generation of doctors and health researchers would emphasise our continued commitment to health and community engagement."

The Aston Medical School will be based in the existing Nelson Building - currently home of Aston Business School.

This will move to existing buildings on Aston's campus - formerly occupied by Birmingham City University's (BCU) faculty of arts before its move to Eastside.

Aston Students' Union will also relocate to former BCU premises on campus, bringing currently unoccupied buildings back into use.

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