Personal Profile

It was probably Yuri Gagarin’s space flight in 1961 that first drew me to science. Throughout my life I have aspired to be a good scientist, and I have strived to achieve the intellectual rigour and personal integrity that this implies. Doctors are, or should be, applied scientists. One problem for medics is that, like everyone else, we are flawed. The only protection that patients have from health professionals’ human tendency to self-deception is for us to aspire to something better; to hold values that dictate that evidence not eminence is the appropriate criterion. The hubris-destroying twist of science, the central beauty and glory of empiricism, is that no matter how right you may be in your own lifetime, eventually someone will demonstrate that you were wrong.

Also in about 1961, I started hanging about in libraries, because I was not good at sport, and I could lose myself in books. I have spent my life reading. Pretty much any book or other written material will do, from comics to the journals to the back of the cornflake packet, via Scott Fitzgerald and Richard Feynman. So an early and enduring ambition was to be a writer.

Nine years after Gagarin’s space flight, Jimi Hendrix died. I had recently become interested in Bob Dylan and rock music. As Voodoo Chile topped the charts, I decided that I wanted to be able to play like that. I was given a guitar for my 15th birthday. I performed my first gig eight months later. I have been gigging ever since. Some time around the age of 35, I could play a passable version of Voodoo ChiIe. It is still in my set. Played on an acoustic guitar. I have a web site for my musical existence here.

My route to medical school was not particularly easy. I secured a place two weeks before autumn 1975 term started, having failed to obtain a place the year before. My enforced gap year gave me the most formative experience of my life, working as a hospital porter for twelve months.

I have been married to the same person since 1978. We have three children, all now adult and dispersed. In my limited recreational time, I like to walk, at a moderate pace. I am interested in politics, but I do not belong to a political party.

I have been incredibly fortunate in my life. I have met a lot of interesting people, I have kept making music, I have had some writing published and I have made some contributions to the clinical and social science of psychiatry. I have never had to cope with boredom.