Prominent Midland business figures Sir Doug Ellis and Tim Watts have put their money where their mouths are to back Aston University's plans for a new £60 million medical school.
The former Aston Villa chairman and Pertemps founder have both offered financial support to plans to help cut Birmingham's 'shocking' infant mortality rate at the school.
Aston University's Medical School will cater for 100 students in total each year. It will include 20 scholarships to train and support a new generation of trainee doctors specifically from 'hard-to-reach' communities in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands.
Five of the available 20 scholarships will be funded by philanthropy through Aston's '50-50' Scholarship Campaign.
Designed to coincide with its 50th anniversary as a university in 2016, it will create five scholarships a year for the next 10 years.
Donations and support from West Midlands High Sheriff Tim Watts and former Villa owner Sir Doug Ellis have already raised over £250,000, enough to fund two initial scholarships.
The remaining 80 places will be open to international students which will in turn also help fund individual scholarships for the region and financial assistance programmes.
Mr Watts said: "I'm delighted to be able to support the 50-50 campaign with a £50,000 donation. I have made it my aim to shine a light on the innovations that make this region stand out and few projects are as groundbreaking as the launch of Aston Medical School.
"Not only is this a huge boost for students from hard-to-reach communities but it will also create local doctors for the local area, improving the health and well-being of communities."
Sir Doug added: "Aston University and the West Midlands region have always been very close to my heart.
"I've lived and worked in and around Birmingham since 1948 and I can think of no better legacy than to be associated with a new medical school in the city.
"The scholarships on offer are very exciting and will undoubtedly provide real benefit for the wider community. I am pleased to support such an exciting project and would encourage others to follow my example."
The school, planned to open in autumn 2017 on Aston University's Birmingham city centre campus, will also include a research institute focused on vascular disease.
Professor Asif Ahmed, pro-vice-chancellor for health at Aston University, said: "We are extremely delighted that Sir Doug Ellis and Tim Watts are among those to already have pledged their support to Aston's '50-50' scholarship campaign and their support will help to fund two of our first five scholarships for our first intake.
"Research shows that medical schools have the ability to improve health outcomes in the communities in which they are founded. Currently Birmingham only has one medical school in comparison to six medical schools based in London.
"Thanks to the generosity of people like Sir Doug and Tim, Birmingham will soon have another medical school after 190 years.
"At AMS, we want to create local doctors for the region at low cost to the public purse and address the region's serious health inequalities.
"As Birmingham has the youngest population in Europe, AMS aims to harness this potential energy to tackle social mobility, infant mortality and engage and educate from hard-to-reach communities our future doctors."
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