Chief Medical Officer, Medical Officer, Sally Davies discussed on A Podcast of One's Own with Julia Gillard
My guest today is dying Sally Davies. Who until October last year was the chief medical officer for England the my senior government advisor on health matters? She was the first and only woman to ever hold this raw. She's also a member of the World Health Organization Executive Board and now serves as master of Trinity College at the University. Kind Bridge Sally. Until recent weeks many people would not have thought much about the chief medical officer. Now we find ourselves hanging off their every word and I met a way we are in the world. Can you describe the role of the chief medical officer what it was like to hold that job? Well it was an incredible honor and to bear flagbearer. I think as a woman actually does put more pressure on. You definitely meant that. I was called the Chief. Nanny of the nation which was sexist. But what we have to do is think hard about the public's health and most of the time for me in Britain that was not about the NHL services. It was more about the preventive health health improvement and health protection. And so of course. Lamentin is came onto that. I was the one that with the backup of scientists had to advise government. When we have the NAVA joke poisonings in two thousand nine ten. I was not there for the first wave of the flu. Pandemic I was actually running research the chest but I was there for the third wave when we had even more deaths and drank back from holidays by ministers for a bowler in West Africa to talk about what needed doing where we responding effectively and to talk to the public. Some people call the roll. The nation's doctor so it's complex because it moves around and I'm a hematologist a specialist in sickle. So and then. I became a researcher so I have a broad background but I'm rather pleased that my successor is an infectious disease specialist so he has called the president horrors of covert and he is expert. And can you imagine what the Chief Medical Officer in the U. K? Or INDEED OTHER CHIEF. Medical officers around the world are going through now. Can you give us an insight into what would it be like well? It's very pressured because what you're trying to do is stay on top of the signs on one side. What should we be doing the services on what's going on and the limitations because no one is prepared for something as bad as this and then the pressures which come from ministers because they clearly want sorting out and they want to show they're in control the media which again is pushing and raking over every little thing and the public demands? Put that beside your own desire to get it right and to save lives and it's a very pressured role you refer them to people not saying something like this coming. Did you ever imagine that the world would be where we are today? Well we did a lot of practice. As did you in Australia of pandemic planning but it was always a flu. So that tastes in respiratory born virus and we thought that would standards in good stead. I think it's shown that we didn't practice everything we didn't think through the testing well enough and the other things. We clearly didn't have ready but would anyone have ready. It's a question of how much clamming can you do and we did a lot and we some really good planning song quite proud of what we did but then how fleet of foot can you be when it happens and how anticipate can you be as you watch it develop and what's giving you hope at the moment on one thing that certainly in world war odd claims the scientific and medical communities coming together and focusing on the research and vaccine other things that are going to make a profound difference at all of that. What scaping you spirits up? Well the first thing is of coal some actual nature that we historically have epidemics and pandemics and survival of the fittest as nations and society. We come through. Interestingly here. I am sat in Trinity College and the where the plagues in the mid sixty and hundreds. Which aren't she because we close down as we have done now. Pasta spy but newt of gravity fame is famed for having. Actually it's not quite correct story having discovered gravity during one of the plagues. I think the way people are coming together whether it's about the sun some working together on treatments vaccinations whether it's in the service stories of heroism of nurses doctors on the front line but also the volunteering the support from people in the community for the vulnerable taking medicines. Taking food and everything. So it's how society is coming together and working together whether it's on Sundance or to support others. Isn't that wonderful? The way it's happening and I am loving the means and the little videos and everything on facetime what SAF and zoom I mean are now doing masses of things by zoom. We were cooking supper with our daughter on zoo last night. She was cooking hers in the House. And we were cooking up unfortunately onsumer. You can't lane in enticed they can't particularly better. I'm GonNa take you back now to your ties when you grew up and when you first start to think that you might want to be doctor because I'm sure one of the things that struck people as we've watched the coverage of the pandemic is had. Jane ended idiots most of the experts most of the politicians or their podiums breed. I telling us what's going to happen next all men so as a girl growing up. What made you decide you so I wanna be a doctor. Well actually. I'm an auditory because I didn't know what to do. I got to the age of sixty nine had quite decent exam results. I was better biology. Have I remember my mother saying you? Good biology you quite like people that you do mince father who was a medic. No one else in the family so I talked to him and it seemed a good idea so I went off to do it and actually after the first couple of years and it's on record I found it quite brutalizing. I think in the way that the doctor's now will find it. The people were. We had Russian health system particularly at that time in the mid seventies where I can remember. Oh young woman. For instance. Not being allowed renal dialysis because there was a choice between patients. And she didn't win. Am I thought this was so unfair? And how many things were handled. I was so brutalized I actually gave up for four years and then giving up discovered I had of the -cation and I think what our young doctors are going through. The moment on the front line is very similar. Not Enough ventilators. Who Do you choose seeing? People die in circumstances where you can't hold their hand and their families can't be there I think they're experiencing some of that brutalizing and harrowing things that I saw in the early and mid seventies and I fear many of them will say after it's over. I can't do this. I hope like me I went off. Married diplomat went Madrid as a diplomat's wife. I wasn't the good diplomat's wife but I realized I wanted to do meant and then came back really energize and I hope that if they do give up then come back energized. When they've found themselves again. Do you think we'd be a bit better now at supporting the main to health and well being of air frontline doctors enosis as they go through something like this would they be more understanding about how spirit crushing making. Those choices are literally between who lives in dollars. I think we're more understanding but talking to our younger daughter WHO's a first year doctrine. The front line they are so stretched so rushed that the extra services aren't available so it is a question of kindness in a team and supporting the team. I had that too. It wasn't enough for me. I would rather a gentle soul that stage. I don't know I think we're going to have to do an awful lot of catching up later on and when you look back on those days I mean. Brutalizing is a very strong word. Was that really perspective about the system. Did you think that they was agenda? Element and win offered in your life that if I said to yourself. Jay is something different that happens because I'm a woman. Oh the walls gendered element the was in medical school. I think thirteen women at the year of one hundred ten. I mean looking back very inappropriate thing so when we did surface anatomy I was made to stand on a stool while they drew on my legs where the muscles were. I mean you know and I thought that was normal that stage but you wouldn't allow that now getting back to starting on the walls. The word very few women. The nurses were not used to women. Doctors remember the system. My first ward saying well. You think I'm here to ally was no. I don't and she said you're here to make mighty and it was actually quite difficult environment and I was definitely Baltimore. The pecking order. But I came from a fairly sparky academic background and my father who was a theologian taught me that. I should ask and challenge. In order to get the right answer I mean at the age of six challenging bishops. How do you know God exists and things so? Perhaps I was better prepared. The many women would be in that. I was prepared to challenge and push back but it wasn't easy. Am I do think it was a agenda sexist environment and can you give us an example of one moment of pushing back of challenging? Do Love the image of you as a sixty road. You know at Sunday lunch challenging bishop but in the context of Medical Education or medical practice. Well I mean just silly things like I remember. I did something on one of my early wall drown. Something consultant said. Miss Davis I said in front of the patient and the whole team. I appreciate you think have got this wrong and I'm really sorry but I know that when you're happy with me you call me Sally when you content you call me. Dr Davis Miss Davis not acceptable. And he said Oh. I didn't realize I did that. Said you into the men interesting. It didn't again. Oh so go to resort. Yes I wouldn't be invited to everything because the boys were going for a beer sitcoms. I can't stand beer and I didn't like pubs because of the smoking them so I didn't mind in one sentence but on the other side. We all know that a lot of medical networking used to take place in the pub over a beer so I was being excluded though I think the funniest was my hematologist professor who I was very fumbled. But he would do this long ward round on one morning of the week and at a certain point he would walk into the gents and continued discussing the patients and my friend Anais. She she and I would stand outside. Arms crossed thinking. What are they saying about patients? We're looking off. And I got so fed up I took to propping. Open the door with my foot and continuing the conversation with the professor while he was in the Jen's that stopped it. That's a fantastic. He meach to now. You've said about being a woman that you think your gender means that you bring anything special to the role for example role as chief medical officer beyond the willingness to take a more collaborative approach and perhaps a relative lack of a guy. What did you mean by that? A lot of men who achieve these great offices set out to I mean I do meet young. Men Are not met a young woman. Actually who say to me? I want to be a chief. Medical officer said well. Perhaps you should not only enjoy the journey but recognize that. It's an issue of timing. Who else is around? And you may not make. But they're invested in the office. I wasn't it was only about a year before the post came up when my predecessor said to me sally you'd be a good. Cmo Why didn't you apply? When I go in about a year. And I said why would I want it? We had this very funny discussion. So it wasn't. I was invested in the office or had an EGO. In fact I don't my father and mother as I said. We're academics and they brought me up to believe that you should have a really good debate. Does matter of it's an argument but the debate. Get to the best answer. So I brought this very academic research background in and in fact what my team said was I would get to a conclusion quite quickly. But if they had a better argument I would shift and I was always debating thinking aloud and everything and that isn't an ego driven way of doing it so it was a different style. It was very I set out to make evidence my U. S. P. and to be collaborative and debating and then if a decision needed taking I would take it. So that was kind of different approach. Much more academic approach and just unpacking some of that..