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Centenary Souvenir

Dr Wendy Burn Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist, Leeds, and President Elect, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Dr Wendy Burn will be the fifteenth President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists when she takes up her role in June 2017 and brings over twenty-seven years’ of experience as a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist.

Born in Oxford to medical parents, Wendy knew from an early age that she wanted to follow in their footsteps. Her mother was the first person in her family to go to university and trained to be a doctor in the 1940s when it was unusual for women to do so. Wendy describes her mother as a domestic goddess who taught her that women could have it all. While at school, she joined the cadet branch of the St Johns Ambulance Brigade and spent many weekends administering first aid. Wendy trained at Southampton Medical School. In her second year, she undertook a project on people who had self-harmed and was shocked to discover the negative attitudes of staff to this patient group. She did, however, love the time she spent in psychiatry and the responsibility she was afforded, which was far more than in other placements. After qualifying, Wendy considered a career in psychiatry, and took up a locum Senior House Officer (SHO) post, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She had now decided on her future career choice - her best career decision. After a further one-year research post, Wendy moved to train in Leeds with her husband, when he was offered an Anatomy Demonstrator post there. Her first job there was in a Victorian asylum that was converted into private housing, working with the elderly. Once again, Wendy had found an area of medicine that she was passionate about and the various life stories, the psychological robustness of the patients and the opportunity to refresh her medical skills fascinated her. Wendy completed her training, including an academic post that was linked to Leeds University. She considered an academic career but was advised that she would need to move to London to do this. Having settled in Leeds, she decided against it and instead chose to remain as a clinician. She was appointed a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist in 1990 in inner city Leeds at the age of only thirtyone. Soon after she became the College Tutor. Wendy was one of a rare breed of female consultants, and she was the first one at the psychiatric unit in Leeds where she worked. Her service is responsible for patients with dementia at all stages of the illness as well as elderly people with a range of psychiatric problems. She has worked closely with the Alzheimer’s Society and is Clinical Lead for Dementia in the Yorkshire Strategic Clinical Network. After only a few months’ maternity leave, Wendy returned to work when her son was four months’ old. Eighteen months later, she had her second child and this time returned to work when her daughter was three months of age. She became more involved in

teaching and became Chair of the SHO training programme, and a whole host of roles followed including Director of Postgraduate Medical Education, Chair of Specialty Training Committee and Associate Medical Director for Doctors in Training in Leeds. She set up the Yorkshire School of Psychiatry and was the first Head of School. Wendy has enjoyed a long relationship with the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) and has been an Examiner, Senior Organiser of Clinical Examinations, Deputy Convenor, Regional Coordinator for continuing professional development and Deputy Lead for National Recruitment. She was elected College Dean in 2011 and served a five-year term and found the ability to make changes at a national level incredibly rewarding. In January 2017, Wendy was encouraged to stand as President of the RCPsych. Indeed, half of the previous Deans had progressed to this role. Although this was not her ambition at the outset, Wendy did stand for election and was successful. She describes this as the proudest moment of her life. Wendy will start to serve as President in June 2017. * Favourite Film: Dr Who and the Daleks – the first film I ever saw at the cinema and nothing, as yet, has bettered the experience * Three objects Wendy cannot live without: iPhone, Two cats

Wendy’s advice to junior doctors is “Don’t ever give up on medicine. You will go through bad times, but there is no other career that is as interesting, intellectually stimulating and where you can make such a difference.”


Medical Woman – Magazine Centenary Issue, April 2017  

The magazine for the Medical Women’s Federation (MWF), the largest and most influential body of women doctors in the UK which aims to promot...