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Dr Fiona Godlee Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal Dr Fiona Godlee is one of the world’s most powerful editors in scientific publishing and the first female Editor-in-Chief in the history of 176-year old British Medical Journal (BMJ). Born in California to a medical family with ancestral relations to Joseph Lister and Sir Oliver Lodge, Fiona wanted to train guide dogs and marry a farmer. She achieved one of those ambitions but regards her decision to study medicine as the best career decision she has ever made.

Fiona qualified in 1985 from Cambridge and then moved back to London to continue training as a general physician. She became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and was then appointed to a one-year editorial internship at the BMJ with every intention to return to full-time clinical practice. She never did. Fiona first joined the BMJ in 1990 and has since written on and lectured on a broad range of issues, including: health and the environment; the ethics of academic publishing; evidencebased medicine; access to clinical trial data; research integrity; open access publishing; patient partnership; conflict of interest; overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Fiona has never regretted leaving medicine because she very much feels like she is still in it. With a CV that is peppered with extensive experience in the editorial f ield, Fiona has held many key roles. As Editorial Director for Medicine from 2000-2002, she helped to establish BioMedCentral, an online open access publisher. She is on numerous advisory and executive boards, including AllTrials, a project advocating that clinical research adopts the principles of open research and that all trials should be listed and shared as open data, and the Peer Review Congress. Another initiative Fiona is involved in is the International Forum for Quality and Safety and Healthcare, which is now in its 21st year. Other enterprises include Evidence Live, Preventing Overdiagnosis, and the cross-professional, international initiative, the Climate and Health Council. She is also Co-Editor of Peer Review in Health Sciences.

Fiona was a Harkness Fellow in 1994 and President of the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) from 19982000, Chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) from 2003-2005, and was named Professional Publishers Association Editor of the Year in 2014. She is, however, cautious about being involved in other roles since taking up her current Editor-in-Chief position in 2005, to prevent any conflict of interest. Integrity is important to Fiona. Under her direction, the BMJ has increased both its readership and its international influence, and she wants to make it bigger still. Not afraid to challenge authority Fiona wrote to Jeremy Hunt when the weekend working argument was rife, accusing him of misrepresenting the data. “Bad science can be dangerous,” she says. Challenging and difficult times have taught Fiona to “surrender the outcome; get the process right; ask good people for input, advice and support; be honest and open; don’t be rushed into a decision – the outcome will be right, whatever it is.” Fiona is most inspired by the new generation of medical students and junior doctors (three of her nieces are amongst them), for being so brilliant, working so hard and retaining their calling for medicine against all the odds. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. * Favourite Book: Pride and Prejudice * Three objects Fiona cannot live without: iPhone, my Brompton folding bicycle, A pen in my hand

Fiona’s advice to junior doctors is “To study nutrition. To quote Denise Minger, she says, “if the doctors of today don’t learn about nutrition, the nutritionists of today will be the doctors of tomorrow.”


Medical Woman | Spring 2017

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...

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