A brief introduction to my career, surgery, research and feedback
I was born into the NHS. My Dad took up a surgical post in Nottingham, where he and Mum were married. They’re pictured below, on their wedding day, with one of his consultants (whose decency towards them has never been forgotten).
I was born in an NHS hospital and we lived in NHS hospital accommodation. Dad went on to a career as a consultant surgeon in the NHS.
When I was a teenager, Dad’s career was nearly destroyed by false allegations at work. Even when cleared, he was unable to find out who had singled him out and why. He’d gently voiced some concerns, but no more. I couldn’t understand how the NHS could treat staff so poorly or why others let it happen. The impact on our family was substantial.
I graduated from the University of Cambridge, with degrees in Philosophy, Medicine and Surgery, having been elected President of St Catharine’s JCR (Student Union).
I became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) in 1996 and moved to Alder Hey in 1998.
In 1999, I became the first person outside North America to win the Resident’s Prize of the Surgical Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In 2001, I was made RCS Hunterian Professor for work that challenged rationales for fetal surgery. I was awarded my research Doctorate by the University of Liverpool (2001); a Leadership Fellowship by the Health Foundation (2003-5); the first National Clinician Scientist position in UK surgery by the Academy of Medical Sciences (2002-7). In 2006, I was appointed Consultant and Senior Lecturer (then Reader) in Paediatric Surgery at Alder Hey.
I was awarded international secondments: (i) in Fetal Surgery at the University of California San Francisco, as David Dunn Scholar of the Association of Laparoscopic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (2007); (ii) as a Medical Research Council Investigator at Caltech, and Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (2010-12); (iii) as a Visiting Fellow at Monash University, Melbourne (2013 and 2014).
I led humanitarian surgery in Mongolia (2010) and extended this experience, with support from Medecins Sans Frontieres, via the course run by the Department for International Development and RCS, Surgical Training in the Austere Environment (2013).
In 2011, the RCS reported me as an “exceptionally skilled and talented” surgeon. In 2012, the Trust’s Interim HR Director described me as an “excellent teacher” and “highly regarded academic”. By combining research with surgery, my team and I developed new approaches attracting more than $3 million in research funding.
I was also asked to take oversight roles, including on the Welsh Assembly Government’s Research Funding Committee (2007-10) and the International Advisory Board of the American Medical Association’s surgical journal, JAMA Surgery (2008-15).
Despite the above, I couldn’t secure a further position in paediatric surgery after blowing the whistle on safety concerns and being forced out by Alder Hey. I’m committed to the NHS and I like seeing patients, so I completed full retraining as a junior doctor to become a consultant physician in a different specialty: rehabilitation medicine.
Now, I’m lucky to work in two specialist multidisciplinary teams, providing Cardiac Rehabilitation and community Neurorehabilitation. It means we work with a rich variety of people and families, from those who’ve come through congenital heart or cardiovascular procedures, to those people negotiating the world with multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, neuromuscular genetic conditions or functional neurological ones. Because each person and family is unique, and we tailor our work accordingly, it means we too keep growing – to meet the complexity, with creativity and compassion.
Some of my published operations