I have worked in hospital medicine and public health in the UK and in Africa for over 30 years, observing a growing chasm in health and wealth between the rich and the poor, in the UK and internationally, an inequity that is bad for everyone. I spend my time working with inspiring colleagues and communities fighting the good fight
I grew up in Romford the fourth child of republican Irish parents and have spent most of my working life in the vibrant and diverse city of Bradford. I trained in medicine in Yorkshire where I met my wife Helen and eloped together to a mission hospital in Eswatini where we learnt the importance of place and community.
In 1996 I took up a consultant post at Bradford Royal Infirmary where I have worked with pride ever since. In 2005 I took on the role as Director of Research for the hospital (there were no other applicants) and had an epiphany. Here I was in the 6th biggest city in the UK, with some of the highest levels of ill-health, yet there was almost no medical or health research.
I set up the Bradford Institute for Health Research to support ‘research to change a city’. We didn’t have any money so focused on research that was people-powered rather than reliant on expensive laboratories. In 2007 I set up the Born in Bradford (BiB) cohort study which is following the lives of over 50,000 mums, dads and children. With incredible support from staff at BRI and the altruism from the families of Bradford this small acorn of a study has grown into one of the largest and most exciting health research studies in the world. Evidence from BiB studies has informed local, national international policies and led to improvements in clinical practice and public health and has led to the world’s first experimental birth cohort study - Born in Bradford’s Better Start - and ActEarly which is a whole systems City Collaboratory to improve the health and life chances of children from deprived communities in London and Yorkshire.
Like many doctors and researchers I have been frustrated by how poor we are at spreading and adopting new evidence. In 2013 I assembled a talented team of improvement and implemetation scientists and clincians to establish the Improvement Academy and work with frontline staff and patients to improve the quality and safety of healthcare. In 2019 we were awarded funding to set up the Wolfson Centre for Applied Health Research to speed up the translation of research into policy and practice.
I am passionate about tackling the unacceptable inequalities in global health and have worked in southern Africa, West Africa and Pakistan to promote sustainable health development. I have continued to work at Good Shepherd Hospital in Siteki during busman’s holidays over 20 years and forged an enduring public health training programme for UK doctors to spend 12 month attachments. I was a Medical Advisor for Doctors of the World and in 2014 led their emergency response in Sierra Leone, setting up and running an Ebola Treatment Centre and was awarded the West Africa Medal. I have worked with close colleagues to build professional links with Mirpur in Pakistan and set up a Children of Pakistan birth cohort.