SCWA students in Years 10 and 12 who are interested in following a medical career were enthralled to listen to talk by Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer of Great Britain last week.
There have been sixteen Chief Medical Officers since the role was created 168 years ago and Dame Sally is proud to be the first woman to be appointed to the post. She is a-political; a Civil Servant, and her job is to keep an eye on public health in the UK, providing independent advice to the Government. She regularly meets Ministers, including the Prime Minister, to brief them on issues affecting the nation’s health. She described her position as one of influence as opposed to power and said her private discussions with ministers behind closed doors, helped ‘shake the trees’ in formulating policy.
Born and bred in Birmingham, Dame Sally, unlike her other family members, was not academically gifted. At school she struggled with dates and numbers and was ‘hopeless’ at history and geography. She failed the 11+ but learnt to overcome her learning difficulties and emphasised to students that it wasn’t necessary to be good at everything. Dame Sally loved Science, Biology in particular and also loves people, so a career in the health service was an ideal combination for her.
Dame Sally described her career progression: doctor, researcher specialising in sickle cell disease, chairing committees, being responsible for overseeing £12m research and development budgets. She told students how she based her career on being ‘seriously competent’ and worked her way up by being efficient. She told students that ‘jobs are what you make of them’ and advised them to always try to make space within their roles to take on other things, as she had done.
Throughout her career Dame Sally has remained true to her values; she described herself as honest, straightforward and strong. She will always tell the truth and all her advice and recommendations are evidence based.
She is passionate about the issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and travels the globe attending conferences of medical professionals, drug companies, investors and healthcare service providers. Bill Gates is one of the many influential people she has met who she described as ‘scary, never forgetting any facts.’