“Learn what you can, read what you can and don’t be an amateur. Don’t give up.”

By Olivia George

Quite accurately named a ‘lifelong visionary in global health’ by The Lancet, Sir Eldryd Parry, KCMG, OBE, is not only a true inspiration but also a delight to talk to, and I feel very lucky to have been able to interview him for this Global Health issue of Pacemaker. Aside from having undertaken years of important and interesting work in Sub-Saharan Africa, he is senior editor of Principles of Medicine in Africa (revised edition, 2004), and founded the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET).
(For more information on THET see p 5 of this month’s Pacemaker)

1. Did your parents (both GPs) play a part in your decision to become a doctor? Who/what have been your greatest inspirations?
Yes – I had their example at home. They were selfless in their work: always available and very good clinicians. In one of my father’s books, which he bought long after he qualified (on the heart by McKenzie, who invented the venous polygraph) he wrote the names of patients he was seeing next to descriptions in the text – he was a very thoughtful physician.

The assumption was I would always be a doctor, but I wobbled for a time when at school. I loved my student years; Cambridge was quite difficult because I went at 17 and was a bit out of my depth initially. When I went onto Cardiff to do my clinical work I was academically and intellectually inspired by my professor of medicine, Harold Scarborough. He was one of three authors of one a standard physiology textbooks in the 50s, 60s & 70s, and he was an outstanding person. Inspiration is possibly slightly the wrong word – guide and pattern model is better. He taught me to think about mechanisms and across ideas, rather than in a very linear fashion.

Over the years different people at different times have inspired me, and now I’m inspired by committed younger colleagues.

2. It is difficult for British students today to imagine a life without the NHS – what was it like studying to be a doctor at the time of the naissance of the NHS?
I knew nothing different. The NHS began in 1948, the year I went to do my pre-clinicals, and my parents’ work from the inside didn’t change at all. In hospital we just worked; we weren’t aware of the NHS, as such, because the system was established and was working well. One of the great differences between then and now is that bureaucrats did not interfere, and there were no rigid time restrictions – no European Working Time Directive! The concept of lifestyle and time off didn’t arise. It was not very many years since the end of the war, when people had realized that they had to pull their weight in society, and we didn’t expect extras, didn’t look for time off, but just to do your job. It was no hardship; we were tremendously well looked-after as part of a small team. Of course, we had time off, and we played hard – being in Wales we played rugby. I still follow the rugby very closely!

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“A Day in the Life of Manchester’s Senior Clinical Lecturer in Public Health”

By Matyas Jakab

Our interview this month is with Dr. Arpana Verma, who in addition to being a Senior Clinical Lecturer and Hon. Consultant in Public Health heads more than a dozen projects, ranging from local to international in scope. She tells us about the details and the perks of a career in public health, as well as providing insights into current themes in the field. We thank Dr. Verma for accepting to be interviewed and are confident that her contribution will widen the horizon of current medical students.

1. Dr. Verma, the first thing would be for you to tell us a bit about what career path brought you to where you are now.
After I left University I did my house jobs at Hope hospital and from that I went into Respiratory Medicine at Wythenshawe and that led me into a staff grade post in adult cystic fibrosis, which was where I did my PhD. Whilst collecting data for the PhD I really started looking at epidemiology as one of the key things I was interested in from the point of view of looking at populations and how we can improve individuals’ health and wellbeing using the evidence base. Rose, one of my public health (PH) heroes, describes PH physicians as needing to have ‘clear minds and dirty hands’ i.e. asking the right question, using the best methodology to answer that question and then disseminating it to the right audiences.

2. What is your current position? What do you do now?
I’m senior lecturer in PH and I am also consultant in PH at Salford Royal Foundation Trust, previously at NHS Bury. As of this month, I’ve been doing this job for 5 years.

3. And as a PH consultant what sort of tasks and challenges do you face and how is PH as a specialty different from other specialties?
PH is a clinical specialty and I think some people may not appreciate that. Even though we’re not looking at investigating an individual, what we’re using is our medical training to understand how to think through problems at a population level, whether that’s looking at epidemiology (the studies that you’ll read about in medical journals) all the way to analysing and interpreting data and critically appraising the evidence. In my previous role, when I was working at NHS Bury, I was commissioning sexual health services, cancer services, looking at infection prevention and control issues, we were increasing the uptake of vaccines and immunisations & screening programmes. We looked at the whole package, so we would work with hospital doctors, GPs, health care professionals across the board together with communities. We organise international conferences and have lots of research grants. We are heavily involved in teaching the next generation of PH professionals from undergraduates to PhD students and consultants in PH. Why not get a taste for PH by doing one of our PEPs, project options or intercalated degrees? We have had 10 years of medical students on our masters in global PH and our brand new BSc coming in 2015.

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