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copy_of__NAS6504_highres.jpgI hope that you all enjoyed a glorious and restful bank holiday weekend and this lovely weather continues and fills us all with some much needed pep after the long winter!

It’s been a busy few months across the Medical Sciences, and I’m pleased to report progress in many of the Division’s core academic and research areas. Last month, we selected Dr Catherine Swales and Dr David McCartney to be the next Director of Clinical Studies and Director of Graduate Entry Medical Studies respectively. Catherine and David will take up their new roles later in the year, and I wish them every success in these leadership positions in the Medical School over the next few years. We have also appointed the REF Unit of Assessment Coordinators as follows: Professor Chris O’Callaghan (UoA 1), Professor Colin Baigent (UoA 2), Professor Paul Harrison (UoA 4) and Professor Francis Barr (UoA 5). Under Professor Keith Channon’s leadership, they will be responsible for working with departments to deliver the submission.

I’d like to offer a huge congratulation to all staff in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine (NDM), and in particular the Self-Assessment team, for all their efforts in renewing their Silver Athena SWAN award. And finally, congratulations to the following researchers who were elected this week as Fellows of the Royal Society and of the Academy of Medical Sciences in recognition of their contributions to science: FRS - Professor Neil Brockdorff, Professor Vincenzo Cerundolo, Professor Andrew King and Professor Dominic Kwiatkowski; FMedSci - Professor Susan Jebb, Professor Eleanor Barnes, Professor David Beeson, Professor Robert MacLaren, Professor Jordan Raff, Professor Guy Thwaites and Professor Mark Woodward.

We’ve recently seen the move of some of our core support teams – Business Development, Research Services, Clinical Trials and Research Governance, Human Tissue Governance (Licence 12217) and staff from MSD IT Services and MSD Safety Office – to the newly refurbished Boundary Brook House (BBH) on Churchill Drive. This move places these teams on the Old Road Campus, across the road from the Botnar Research Centre and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and just a short walk from the John Radcliffe Hospital. Everyone is very welcome to drop into the JRO’s International Clinical Trials Day event that is being held in BBH between 11-3 on Friday 18 May where you will be able to meet staff involved in supporting the clinical medical research undertaken in Oxford.

As our Division continues to expand, the Medical Sciences Board has agreed that it is important to manage the naming of new research centres better, to avoid duplication or risk of confusion with existing departments or centres within in the University or any of our partners. With this in mind, the Board has adopted a new Policy for naming new Research Centres (login required). Please consult this policy before officially naming any new centres, and feel free to contact Leila Whitworth, Head of Research Strategy and Funding Team, if you have any questions.

Finally, I’m delighted to showcase some of the terrific initiatives that are taking place in our departments. The Radcliffe Department of Medicine (RDM) is leading the way in tackling bullying and harassment in a large Medical Sciences department. With support from Lynn Clee, Charlotte Smith (RDM) and Gillian Morris (Divisional Office), Professor Hugh Watkins has led a zero tolerance programme across his department by mandating that all managers and PIs complete a tailored programme of Anti-Bullying and Harassment training and by visibly talking about and tackling unnecessary and unwanted behaviours in the workplace. RDM has strengthened the availability and visibility of its Harassment Advisor Network, created a series of leaflets and staff communications about the issue, and championed the role of the bystander and the need for stamping out and reporting bullying and harassment in RDM. Future work includes creating a dignity at work policy and continuing to train all staff and students, face to face or via an online training package. More information about this activity is available on their website.

This is a timely reminder that we take accusations of bullying and harassment extremely seriously, and collectively we strongly encourage anyone who feels they have been subject to bullying and harassment to seek support from a Harassment Adviser in the knowledge that there will be no negative consequences for them in doing so. Only by being open about these issues, can we truly understand them and take steps to eliminate this behaviour across Division and the wider institution. We shall be championing a zero tolerance approach to bullying and harassment across MSD and have the support of the Medical Sciences Board to do this.

Please contact your Harassment Adviser, local HR or other departmental rep or consult the University guidance on anti-bullying and harassment for more information and sources of support.

This month we’re very excited to have the University’s first-ever presence at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show (Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 May). The garden is a result of a collaboration between the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine’s Professor John Frater, the Scientific Lead for the CHERUB Collaboration, along with other CHERUB researchers and clinicians, garden designers, community link workers and young people living with HIV, and aims to break the stigma and secrecy associated with HIV, increase engagement with HIV testing and treatment and explore new therapies through research. There are some tickets remaining for the show, or you can catch coverage of it on the BBC. I shall be very interested to see what Monty Don thinks of our efforts. Well done, John!

On Thursday 29 May, both the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology and the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences building (formerly the Outpatients building of the old Radcliffe Infirmary) will receive Blue Plaques commemorating their role in the development of Penicillin. Howard Florey, Ernst Chain, Norman Heatley and colleagues at the Dunn School conducted pioneering work isolating and purifying penicillin, and this was soon followed by the first clinical trial (on brave Abingdon police constable, Albert Alexander) at the Radcliffe Infirmary by Dr Charles Fletcher. Without doubt, this ground-breaking work led to the birth of a fundamental aspect of modern medicine and it is only right and fitting that these achievements are celebrated. It also a further reminder to me that the Division’s achievements, both in the past and present, are phenomenally impressive and I look forward to our continued success.

A huge thank you to all staff and students for your efforts towards making this Division a truly magnificent place to work and study.