Can you tell us a little about your career and the path you took to your present role at FoDOCS?
I am fascinated by other people and their lives and this interest (some would call it nosiness) has underpinned my academic career. I studied sociology at the University of Bristol, graduating in 1995. I then self-funded a part time MSc in Sociology, Health and Healthcare at UCL whilst working full time in a bookshop and then as a support worker for a charity providing care for adults with visual impairments and other disabilities. My first research job was as a research officer at the charity SeeAbility looking at the social care needs of young adults with Batten Disease. This provided the basis for my PhD research which I also completed part-time at UCL.
My first academic role was as a research fellow at St George’s Hospital Medical School researching loneliness and social isolation in older people. Whilst in this job I also taught medical sociology across 4 London medical schools to build my experience and CV. This paid off and in 2002 I landed my first lectureship in sociology, health and health policy at the University of Roehampton. There was no time for research in this role, but I got a lot of teaching experience, met some really nice people and got married. In 2005 moved to King’s for lectureship in medical sociology. I arrived 4 months pregnant which made for an interesting first day conversation with my Head of Department!
I had both of my sons within 2 years of starting at King’s and juggled work and parenting with the ever present guilt at not doing either role well enough. Since then, I have continued to juggle these roles while building my research portfolio, building and maintaining my links in the sociology community and learning more than I ever thought I would want to know about dentistry.
I am now a Reader in Medical Sociology and Academic Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
What, if any, challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you navigate them?
Studying part time whilst working in unrelated jobs was tough but gave me a better understanding of the world outside academia than I would have had otherwise. It’s also led to me actively look to support other non-traditional students. Having children at a time when there was little support available in academia was also tough and I was very lucky to have supportive colleagues through the early years.
Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis and the chronic pain and mobility issues that come with that have added an additional challenge, forcing me to rethink some of my ways of working. This has also given me the impetus to make positive changes in my working life.
If you could, what advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?
I would say believe in yourself and stay true to the kind of academic you want to be. Work to build the links and relationships within your community that you will need for this. Academia is built on relationships and the way you treat people will be reflected in the relationships you build.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Embrace Equity’. What does equity mean to you, and how can everyone (regardless of gender) embrace it?
We are all different and need different kinds of support in order to succeed. For me equity is about seeing each person as an individual and working out what they need and how best to support them.