How long have you been a dermatologist and researcher?

I became interested in research as an undergraduate at Oxford although once I started medical training in London I was more focussed on looking after patients. I qualified in medicine in 1975 and started dermatology training in 1980, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. That department was very research- orientated, but I remained first and foremost a clinical dermatologist. I was appointed consultant dermatologist in Birmingham in 1993 and retired officially in 2011 but continued part-time until 2021. I have never been a laboratory researcher but I provide clinical input for scientific studies and am still conducting a study of the incidence of collodion and harlequin babies.

What inspired you to follow this career path?

Dermatology always appealed because it is a very “hands on” specialty, relying on clinical skills rather than Xrays, scans or blood tests. As a medical student I spent two elective periods working with leprosy, in Malawi and Myanmar, which consolidated my interest in skin disease. Of course there were also personal and domestic factors influencing career choices at various stages. Compared with surgery or mainstream medical specialties like cardiology, dermatology work is mainly outpatient-based and non-emergency, so it’s compatible with looking after a family.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

Finding enough hours in the day!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Almost everything! I enjoy interacting with people, whether it be patients, families, colleagues or even managers: interactions with “the management” can be frustrating but I have learnt that time and persistence usually succeed in the end. I have always been interested in genetic disease and it has been wonderful to have lived and worked through a period of dramatic scientific advance: families I puzzled over 30 years ago are finally getting answers. And it is a great privilege to have worked for the NHS for 46 years.

Why did you become involved with the ISG?

I soon learnt that doctors can’t actually do very much to improve the lives of people with ichthyosis, while families get lots of support and useful tips from each other. So, I hosted the 2nd ISG Conference in 2001 at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and the rest is history! Of the many patient support groups I have worked with I have enjoyed ISG the most – for the people, their commitment and their willingness to take on challenges and get involved in national and international initiatives.

How do you raise awareness and signpost people towards the ISG?

Whenever I meet a new patient with ichthyosis I always give them ISG contact information and I have encouraged colleagues to join the medical advisory board. When ichthyosis is discussed at regional and national meetings, I remind fellow health professionals about the ISG.

Why is being a dermatologist and researcher important to you?

I’m now retired but I want to go on using the knowledge and skills I have built up over the years. I have an honorary contract with Birmingham Children’s Hospital and contribute to teaching, case discussions and research. As a member of the editorial advisory boards of several dermatology journals I give advice on papers submitted for publication and write plain English summaries of complex research studies. I want to go on contributing and I’m keen to keep the brain cells active!

Outside of your role what are your interests and hobbies?

Before the pandemic, my husband (also a retired doctor) and I enjoyed travelling and supporting colleagues in under-resourced countries, particularly India. We have 3 grown up children and a grandchild, all living fairly near, so family activities are very important. During lockdown I have enjoyed gardening and sewing and I find zoom meetings ideal for knitting!