The CLAHRC WM Director waxed lyrical about the deep satisfaction that comes from treating patients at a recent question and answer session at the University of Warwick’s “Festival of the Imagination”. Prof Richard Smith, the ebullient host of the event, gently chided the CLAHRC WM Director on the grounds that he is now a public health doctor and no longer sees patients. Yet the CLAHRC WM Director believed every word he said – how did it come about then, that a dedicated doctor came to give up clinical practice?
The CLAHRC WM Director built up a large referral practice in feto-maternal medicine after assuming the Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Leeds in 1984. He established the first feto-maternal training centre in the North of England and two brilliant young clinicians, Jim Thornton (now Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Nottingham) and Gerald Mason (now retired) became his protégés. The CLAHRC WM Director worked hard to ensure that they both became consultants in his hospital. This allowed him to take on other roles. He was elected to the Council of the Royal College, and became chairman of one of its committees; he was on the management committee of the medical school and chairman of the Institute of Epidemiology at the University of Leeds; and he was an executive director of the United Leeds Teaching Hospitals. The upshot of all of this was that Thornton and Mason gradually took over the future CLAHRC WM Director’s carefully nurtured referral practice so that he became increasingly supernumerary. So the poor old CLAHRC WM Director had become a victim of his success. However, he had also been elected to a full membership of the Faculty of Public Health. This meant that he was in a position to apply when head-hunters called to tell him about a job in the newly expanded R&D Department of Health under Sir Michael Peckham.
The rest, as they say, is history. He languished in the civil service for five years and then returned to academia where he has worked happily for the last 15 years. At dinner parties and elsewhere the question most often asked is “Don’t you miss seeing patients?” And his answer is always simple: “Yes”.
— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director