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Professor Debbie Sharp MA BM BCh PhD FRCGP OBE

Centenary Souvenir

Professor of Primary Health Care, Centre for Academic Primary Care, Bristol Professor Debbie Sharp was the first person in her family to go to university. She was encouraged by her tutors to apply to Oxford to read Biochemistry, which she duly did, not realising that there was little ‘bio’ in the degree. She loved Oxford but did not enjoy the course.

In her second year, one of her tutors recognised her plight and introduced her to Dr David Baum, then a Senior Lecturer in paediatrics in Oxford. With his support, Debbie was accepted onto the one-year graduate programme to read pre-clinical medicine. Debbie completed her clinical training in Oxford and considered a career in haematology/ oncology but instead returned to Oxford to train in General Practice (GP). This, her best career decision, was where Debbie felt totally at home. At the end of her GP training, Debbie craved some academic work and took a job in the pharma industry in Holland. She moved to Amsterdam, travelled the world and brought the first SSRI to the European market. In 1983, Debbie was appointed to a Lecturer post at St. Thomas’ Hospital and began formal academic work. Two years later, she received one of the first Mental Health Foundation GP Training Fellowships, which allowed her time to undertake her PhD into Emotional Disorders in Childbearing Women

in the Community. Her experience in Holland had given her a good launch pad for psychiatric research. Upon completion of her research, she was promoted to Senior Lecturer while continuing her work as the first female partner at the Lambeth Road Group Practice. During her eleven years in South London, she developed additional research interests in women’s health and in particular, breast cancer screening and more generic interests in primary care mental health. Debbie took up the newly created Chair in Primary Health Care in Bristol in 1994, the first woman to be appointed to a substantive Chair in Medicine in Bristol and built up a world-class department over the next sixteen years – her proudest achievement. This was not an easy undertaking in what Debbie regards was the toughest but most enjoyable time of her career – setting up a new department in a medical school with a reputation for hostility towards such an initiative was tough. She learnt that at challenging times, it is crucial to talk to trusted colleagues. On the back of an excellent 2004 Research Assessment Exercise, Debbie took the Centre for Academic Primary Care into the newly created NIHR School for Primary Care Research. Over the years, she became Head of the School of Medicine; sat on the General Medical Council (GMC); on the GMC Education Committee; was Chair of the GMC Research Committee; Chair of the Medical School Council’s Women in Academic Medicine Working Party; and sat on numerous national grant awarding bodies. All this time, Debbie continued as Head of Department, seeing patients at a local practice one day a week and maintained a serious research output. Debbie developed the Academic Foundation Programme and was instrumental in developing the Wellcome Trust and Academy of Medical Sciences INSPIRE programme for medical students. She has been Head of the School of Clinical Academic Training at the Severn Deanery, recognised as a model for other regions. In 2016, Debbie was awarded an OBE for services to Primary Care. * Favourite Book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt * Three objects Debbie cannot live without: iPhone, Coffee machine, Corkscrew!

Debbie’s advice to junior doctors is “To choose your specialty and your life partner carefully.”


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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