Plymouth Student Awarded With The Sharpest Skills In The UK

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18 Mar 2019

Run by Britain’s oldest surgical Royal College, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh with sponsors Medtronic, the National Surgical Skills Competition, now in its fourth year, was won by University of Plymouth Peninsula Medical School student James Russell, after a gruelling series of tests designed to push the finalist's skills to the extreme. 

Delighted by his win on 16 March 2019, James said:

“I found the stations challenging and enjoyable. It was a great opportunity to practice on the state of the art simulation equipment, and to get feedback on my skills from experienced surgeons.

I am very keen to pursue surgery as a career prospect and winning the final has given me greater confidence in my practical skills.”

The competition began in September 2018 with 19 regional rounds across the UK during which medical students were asked to undertake a series of demanding surgical skills tests including an ‘Origami Skill Test’ designed to assess cognitive skills and challenge the ability to follow instructions and demonstrate manual dexterity. The winner of each regional round was announced on the night, awarded with a trophy and the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh to compete in Saturday’s Grand Final. 

Explaining more about the competition, President of RCSEd, Professor S Michael Griffin said:

"The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has a long established reputation for being at the forefront of surgery, having led and supported the profession since 1505. With a crucial focus now on supporting the next generation of surgeons, it has been hugely rewarding to witness the talents of senior medical students through this competition as they showcased their surgical skills. The competition Grand Final also offered the opportunity for our competitors to network with students out with their own University and with established surgeons, in the midst of the prestigious setting of our Royal College.

RCSEd is committed to fostering relationships with the undergraduate medical schools in the UK and this competition provides an excellent platform. I am delighted to offer my congratulations to James and wish all students who took part every success in the next step of their medical careers."


With only 8% of medical undergraduates qualifying as surgeons in one of the ten specialties, surgery is an incredibly competitive area, so being able to demonstrate the commitment and the skills to become a surgeon at this early stage puts students at a great advantage later in their career. 

Convened by College Council Member Mr Roger Currie, a Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon in Ayrshire, the competition aims to discover the most talented aspiring surgeons in the UK. 

"For the competition to be received so enthusiastically by the senior medical students was wonderful to see.  Competing against their peers allowed the students to benchmark their abilities, many of whom surprised themselves by finding they were stronger than expected.  The confidence gained in the competitive yet supported setting we hope inspires them to pursue surgery as their chosen profession at this crucial point in their training.  The achievement in winning a place at the Grand Final sets these students apart as real surgical stars of the future.” 

“We are most grateful to Medtronic for their collaboration to make this competition possible."


Jackie Fielding, VP, Medtronic UK & Ireland said

“The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Surgical Skills competition is a perfect forum to encourage medical students to consider a surgical career path.  We’re consistently impressed with the students’ level of skill and professionalism throughout this competition and we’re delighted to provide the winner with a unique opportunity to experience our very latest offering in surgical innovation.”

James will be one of the very first in the UK to experience a ground-breaking technology from Medtronic. The new Visionsense™ VS3 Iridium system combines high-definition visualisation with infrared fluorescence imaging, allowing surgeons to visualise and assess tissue perfusion with real time qualitative and quantitative measurement of IR intensity, confirming or enhancing surgical judgment to optimise outcomes.

Medtronic Ltd, regularly launches new and innovative products which support the companies Mission to contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research. 

Second place in Saturday’s Grand Final was awarded to Oxford University medical student Audrey Davies.


About The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

RCSEd was first incorporated as the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1505, and is the oldest surgical corporation in the world with memberships approaching 25,000 professionals in over 100 countries worldwide. The College promotes the highest standards of surgical and dental practice through its interest in education, training and examinations, its liaison with external medical bodies and representation of the modern surgical and dental workforce. It is also home to the UK’s only Faculty of Surgical Trainers, open to all those with an interest in surgical training regardless of College affiliation. Find RCSEd on Twitter and on Facebook

The College is based at Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DW and can be reached on (0)131 527 1600 or In March 2014, a new base opened in Birmingham, catering to the 80% of the College’s UK membership who are based in England and Wales.

For all media enquiries please contact the Communications Team on +447467 485145 or email 


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