Keeping it in the family. Graduation mum and son duo

Date 30.11.2023

One Northamptonshire family has two reasons to ‘throw their caps in the air’ after mother and son graduated with health and sports qualifications.

Recently, mum and healthcare professional Dr Bill Robertson-Smith graduated from the University of Northampton’s (UON) Doctor of Professional Practice in Health and Social Care degree course.

She did so alongside her son Archie, who crossed the stage after completing his Sport Rehabilitation and Conditioning degree. They joined more than 2,400 of their peers at the CINCH/Northampton Saints stadium.

Bill currently works at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust in Trauma and Orthopaedics and talks about her career and why she studied for a postgraduate course: “My career originally started out in a very different sector as a classical musician, but I really wanted to get into health. About 20 years ago, I trained to be an Operating Department Practitioner – and, sometime later, after further obtaining a qualification in Surgical Care Practice at the University of Greenwich, I became a Senior Surgical Care Practitioner, the role I’ve happily been in for the last 15 years.

“My journey to the ‘Prof. Doc.’ started during my Master’s degree, which I started by chance having no undergraduate degree. As I completed each module, I felt myself enjoying it more and wanting to progress further. I absolutely loved being a student, and after my Master’s degree, I continued with my study by taking on a Professional Doctorate Degree.

“I’m now officially referred to as Doctor Robertson-Smith, which sounds great but means so much. I’ve achieved an academic goal that means I can continue committing to research and working in the role I’m dedicated to.”

Archie picks up the family story about how it felt to be at the same university at the same time as his mum: “My friends thought it was quite cool, although we never bumped into each other on campus as my course was more ‘in-person’ and at Waterside campus and mum’s was more distance learning.

“She did support me during the earlier part of my degree – her healthcare knowledge was a help if I wanted to ‘bounce’ ideas off about my assignments – but I saw my sister Harriet who is studying Adult Nursing at UON more often. She is in her last placement before she qualifies, working at Northampton General Hospital, also in trauma and orthopaedics.”

Alongside the duo’s academic accomplishments and Harriet’s soon-to-be-completed degree, Bill’s other son Fred is in his second year as an architecture student elsewhere in the region.

As for their hopes for a postgraduation future, Bill says: “I really think the world is your oyster after completing a doctorate, and at the moment I am happy continuing with my own research projects and developing my longstanding role at Northampton General Hospital.”

Archie adds: “I felt a bit sad after finishing my degree as I started to miss university and the whole process of the teaching and learning experience. I’m hoping to be able to complete the UON’s Master’s degree in Physiotherapy, not part of my original plan but I’m excited about the course and going deeper into this area of study. I also have a job at a sport and injury clinic in Rushden which I am really enjoying, so I’m happy to roll with the punches for now and see where my studies take me.”