4 March 2019
What first drew you to work in the health sector?
I enjoyed science and was particularly inspired by the double helix, plus I liked working with people.
What sparked your motivation to advocate globally on AMR and is there a personal story that you have come across that illustrates exactly why tackling AMR is so important?
The first reason for me to work on AMR is that my former husband died of leukaemia and had, as so many people with cancer, repeated infections, some of which were difficult to treat so I saw first-hand the sadness when a family member suffers from a non-treatable infection and eventually dies.
The second reason was that I saw and understood the science of drug-resistant infections rising, the empty pipeline for new drugs and the lack of a co-ordinated response not only nationally, but globally, and I felt that someone had to campaign on his issue and give it voice so that we got action rather than just talking about it.
Next week will mark the launch of activities as part of the new Commonwealth Partnerships for AMS, funded by the Fleming Fund. Why is this programme so significant and what do you hope will be its main achievement?
It is difficult to act on any problem if you do not know the size and shape of it, so the UK Government set up the Fleming Fund to support low income countries developing their laboratories and their surveillance. As they understand these issues they will then be able to face the problems of their country and move forward to save lives. As we roll out the programme, we have learnt more and more about the magnitude of the problem of falsified and counterfeit medicines in the low incomes countries, as well as the difficulties of antibiotic and antimicrobial stewardship in low- and middle-income countries. The new Commonwealth Partnership is a key part of our response to the difficulties of stewardship in these countries. I know from my own experience that our pharmacists will help these countries through their study visits, but they too will come back enriched by the learning and experience.
What are your ambitions for the UK contribution towards improving global health and what do you think the role of THET and health partnerships is in this?
I believe THET and Health Partnerships can play a major role in the UK’s contribution to improving global health. Indeed, my next annual report is focusing on global health – watch this space to learn what I think the UK’s ambitions for the future should be.
This year, the International Women’s Day campaign is ‘Balance for Better’, how crucial do you think a more gender-balanced world is for the improvement of global health? And do you have any advice for those looking to enter the sector?
How can we move forward in health if we do not represent the communities we are serving? So it goes without saying that we need a gender-balanced world for the best outcomes in global health. My advice to those women thinking of coming into global health is to “hold your nose and jump”.