Wednesday Profile: Professor Dame Sally Davies

Ok, confession time: the first ever Wednesday profile was supposed to appear last Wednesday on the 6th of March, but real life got in the way a bit! My 11 month old son’s face swelled up on the right side and so we ended up taking him to hospital where he and I stayed overnight and the next day until he was discharged at 8pm on Thursday. He’s fine now; they diagnosed an infection and prescribed antibiotics, the course of which he has just finished, but needless to say that week was a bit of a write-off!

The Profile:

So, this is the first Wednesday profile, delayed thanks to a bout of ill health and so I think its apt to begin with Professor Dame Sally Davies, the first woman to ever fill the post of Britains Chief Medical Officer. She recently came 6th on BBC Radio 4s Power List of woman 2013, after such woman as Theresa May and Ana Botín, and not forgetting the Queen. This is a woman who seemingly likes to keep herself busy: she works primarily as a haematologist who specialises in sickle cell disease, but as the Chief MO she advises the government on important health issues of the day. She was born 24th November 1949, three years after the end of World War II and one year after the formation of the National Health Service for which she would later work. She received her medical degree from the University of Manchester (one of the universities I applied for and was accepted by, fact fans!) and went on to obtain and M.Sc from the University of London. She has also received honourary degrees from the Universities of Keele and Lincoln. This is a woman with plenty of letters after her name, not to mention her titles preceeding it!

She has been married 3 times, the second marriage leaving her sadly widowed, and she has two daughters with her third husband.

Why this person is relevent today:

Her most recent news worthy announcement is particularly relevent to my family at the moment as it pertained to the use of antibiotics. The issue Sally Davies brought up referred to the fact that bacteria is pretty darn smart and can adapt to the drugs we use to combat them. This is not actual news; how many of us have seen the posters in our doctors surgeries reminding us that colds are viral infections and therefore cannot be treated with antibiotics? This is just one of many ways of trying to educate the public about bacteria and antibiotics. But Sally Davies warning was that little bit different, partly due to her use of the word “apocolyptic”. It’s a scary word and while we should always take eye-catching headlines with a pinch of salt (or more, depending on what newspaper uses the scare-mongering phrases!) we should take notice of this one. Bacteria will always evolve to combat the drugs we fight them with, but if we overuse our antibiotics, whether for direct human use or in the case of farming, we will lose our edge and it is very likely that bacteria will overtake our race to create new antibiotics for new strains of disease. It wasn’t very long ago that illnesses and conditions like TB or dental abcesses could cause death, but now we have antibiotics to combat them, plus a vaccine in the case of TB, and so they are still horrible, but ultimately they are treatable. In Downton Abbey’s last series ***spoilers*** Sybil tragically developed pre-eclampsia and died following childbirth, the decision to take her to hospital and perfom an emergency C-Section deemed to dangerous due to the risk of infection. This was only the 1920s, less than 100 years ago, yet infection was a very real danger to women in labour, and many died from this.

Final thought:

Apocolyptic may seem like hyperbole, but I think Dame Professor Sally Davies knows her stuff and we should definitely take heed. This woman is not just an expert on medicine, she is the expert on medicine. I just hope the government listens to her and imposes strict rules on the farming industry to curtail their use of antibiotics. I’d also love for the goverment to fund more research into new, more specific antibiotics to prevent the use of generic ones for all manner of infections…yeah, I know. A girl can dream, right?



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