Harvard success for ex-academy pupil

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A FORMER Ellon Academy pupil has succeeded in graduating with a medical degree in the United States of America, from one of the country’s top Ivy-League universities.

Gillian Sowden graduated last month from Harvard University’s prestigious Medical School as one of only six students from her class of 109 who achieved a distinction of ‘Magna cum Laude’, or ‘with great honour’ - one of the highest classifications available under the American grading system.

The success caps a lengthy academic journey for Gillian, who began her advanced studies by taking a degree at Williams College, Massachusetts. She attended Ellon Academy between 1993 and 1998, before leaving for Norway at the age of sixteen to pursue her ambition of ski racing. During this time she was successful in Norges Cup races, achieved two top twenty finishes in the World Junior Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia and represented Great Britain at World Cup level, before retiring from the sport in 2002 to commence her studies.

Gillian’s prowess in her chosen subject won her the Dr. Sanger prize for ‘excellence and accomplishment in research’, for her paper “The impact of mental illness on cardiac outcomes: a review for the cardiologist,” The paper went on to he published in the International Journal of Cardiology.

Gillian, who married in America in 2008, will shortly be undertaking one of Harvard’s psychiatry training programs with a residency at the Cambridge Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, where she now lives.

Her father, Dick, explained that Gillian, who had been back in Scotland, very nearly missed her flight back to her graduation ceremony due to the recent volcanic ash cloud. “I’m very proud of her”, he said.