Dundee student collects law degree from doctor who saved her life when she was a baby

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By Katie King on

She was baptised at one-day-old because she wasn’t expected to make it

(L-R) Naren, Sarah and Morag. Image via The Courier

A law graduand from the University of Dundee was yesterday handed her postgrad degree by a doctor who looked after her when she was a seriously unwell baby.

Sarah Beattie is a 32-year-old aspiring lawyer. Having recently completed her Scottish diploma in legal practice, she told Legal Cheek she is now looking for a training contract, hopefully in family law, private client or court work.

But she had a rough start in life. Born 14 weeks premature and weighing just 1lb 5oz, her mother, Morag, told local newspaper The Courier Sarah was baptised the day after her birth as she was “expected not to make it”.

Thankfully Sarah was looked after by Ninewells Hospital’s special care baby unit in Dundee, where Naren Patel was the consultant obstetrician.

Naren Patel is now Lord Patel, having received a knighthood in 1994 and an elevation to the House of Lords in 1999. He’s also the chancellor of the University of Dundee, meaning it’s Patel who dishes out undergrad and postgrad degree certificates.

Last year, when Sarah received her first law degree from Dundee, Morag made the connection. She said:

I couldn’t believe it when I saw him at the Caird Hall and he was presenting Sarah with her cap. He was so fantastic with her when she was born and he’s someone we owe a lot to. There are not many happy stories of babies being born premature back in the 1980s, but Sarah was a fighter and it was all thanks to the care of Lord Patel and his team of dedicated nurses and doctors that she came through it.

Yesterday the trio reunited face-to-face before the ceremony in the neighbouring City Chambers, to tell their stories and to share some thank yous.

There, Naren explained that having seen how small Sarah was when she was born, and in light of the fact it was the 1980s, “it wasn’t likely to be a good outcome”. He attributed Sarah’s great early progress to the hospital’s excellent team of doctors and nurses, and said he only assisted in “a small way”.

But Sarah told us he was just being “very modest” about the whole situation. “Back in the 1980s, Lord Patel and his team were excellent in my care and survival,” she said.

And as for the ceremony itself, Sarah said the experience was “excellent”. She told Legal Cheek:

Lord Patel stopped me on stage and made an announcement to the whole ceremony about how we had a connection.

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