How university transformed life for doctor from disadvantaged background


Laura McManus with her father and son
Laura McManus with her father and son

Becoming a doctor is a dream come true for Laura McManus, who used foodbanks as a teenage mother. 

It was advice from Lancaster Medical School which gave her the confidence to retake her GCSEs after failing all of them and being excluded from school at the age of 15.

Preston College allowed her to study for her A levels without having any GCSEs. This enabled Laura to gain a place at Lancaster Medical School after passing both her A Levels and resat GCSEs with flying colours.

Aged 31, Laura is now a junior doctor at the Royal Preston Hospital and says she is proof that young people can overcome a disadvantaged upbringing.

“Even when you feel the world is against you and that things can’t improve, you can overcome difficulties with the right sort of help.”

Laura grew up on a council estate and her mother died when she was three. But she always wanted to be a doctor.

““I lived on a council estate in Preston, where children off council estates didn’t become doctors.”

A rebellious teenager, she played truant and was excluded from school aged 15, becoming pregnant a year later and living in a hostel with her baby and then-boyfriend.

She relied on foodbanks to survive while working as a cleaner, in retail and social care before deciding to pursue her childhood dream.

Aged 23, she returned to education, this time at Preston College where she did A Levels in Chemistry, Maths, Biology and AS Geography.

But her lack of GCSEs were an obstacle to applying to medical school so Laura sought advice from Lancaster University’s Director of Admissions Dr Karen Grant who helped and advised Laura on what she should do.

Dr Grant said: “We’re all extremely proud of Laura. She has demonstrated incredible resilience to overcome the challenges in her life and that resilience will stand her in good stead as a junior doctor and beyond. Society needs more doctors like Laura and she is an inspiration to young people from diverse backgrounds who perhaps doubt that a career in medicine could be a possibility for them.”

Laura sat five GCSEs, achieving all A*, before completing three A levels and one AS Level at Preston College, gaining all As.

Even while studying at Lancaster Medical School, she still had to contend with deaths in the family and a breast cancer scare.

“Staff at Lancaster Medical School have supported me all the way through. There have been a lot of crying, especially during exams and I fainted twice. It has been really emotional, but I am over the moon I have finally qualified as Dr McManus.”

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