Academic clinches dream job back in home city of Sunderland

Professor Debs Patten.
Professor Debs Patten.

A Sunderland professor is thrilled to have landed the job of her dreams in her home city.

After years honing her unique skills in different parts of the country Prof Debs Patten has finally returned to her Wearside roots.

And what’s more, she is taking up her dream role as Professor of Anatomy at the University of Sunderland’s new School of Medicine.

It’s an opportunity she has dreamed of, the chance to be part of a pioneering new school that aims to educate, support and change the lives of students.

But, more than that, it also offers Debs the chance to give something back. Like her, many of the incoming new medics will come from diverse, non-traditional backgrounds.

In fact, Debs knows the hurdles students, who perhaps do not fit the ‘classic’ medical school criteria, face.

Growing up in Ryhope, she attended St Patrick’s RC Primary School in the village before heading to St Anthony’s Catholic Girls’ Academy.

It was there, she developed a taste for science, and while many of her friends opted for the creative subjects, Debs’ passion was with chemistry and biology.

Debs said: “I was always a fairly practical child, I think. I loved discovering things and was always fascinated with how anything worked, especially the human body. I guess, like any pupil, the subjects I enjoyed the most were the ones I did best at.”

Debs attended Sheffield Univerisity to do a degree in anatomy and cell biology, followed by a PhD in neuropharmacology.

She has worked at St George’s Hospital in London and also lectured at Durham University and Newcastle University.

The professor said the opportunity to be part of something unique at Sunderland was too good a chance to turn down.

She said: "Here I get the chance to be involved from the beginning, to help shape and create; to give something back to the area where I came from.

"It’s exciting. I know where these students are coming from.

"My dad was a construction worker in the North East during the 80’s – he was in and out of work and so there were lean times for sure. As a university student I was from a non-traditional background.

"While I don’t think that held me back academically in any way, I suppose – now I look back – it maybe did mean that I wasn’t quite as self-assured as some of my peers, and for me, the encouragement of good teachers was so important."

Today, living in Ryhope, Debs is married to husband Liam and the couple have a six-year-old son, Adam.

For the next six months, in the run-up the opening of the School of Medicine, Debs is overseeing the setting up of the anatomy laboratory in the University’s Sciences’ Complex and she is making sure the teaching and learning resources for the first cohort of students are in place.

Debs said: “Seeing a vision become reality is such an exciting opportunity, and what’s even better is I’m seeing that happen in my own home city."