Professor Frances Flinter
Professor of Clinical Genetics
Caldicott Guardian at Guy's & St Thomas NHS FT
Chair of the Medical Genetics Clinical Reference Group (NHS England)
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
During A level Biology I found the module on genetics particularly interesting, and as an undergraduate medical student I had some inspirational teaching on clinical genetics from Dr Caroline Berry, a consultant geneticist at Guy’s Hospital. Then as a junior doctor in Paediatrics I met a number of children with rare inherited disorders just at the time the Human Genome Mapping project was starting. I was in the right place at the right time – pure luck!
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
Inherited renal diseases: I did my doctoral research on Alport’s syndrome, a rare, X-linked inherited kidney disease, after meeting some affected families when I was working as a paediatrician on Dickens ward at Guy’s
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis: As a clinical geneticist I meet many families who are at high risk of having children with a serious inherited disease. They want to avoid having an affected child, but some would not consider terminating an affected pregnancy, so for them PGD is a very valuable alternative.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
I was a commissioner on the Human Genetics Commission for 7 years and learned a huge amount from fellow commissioners who came from completely different disciplines e.g. lawyers, ethicists and patients affected by genetic conditions.
I am medical adviser to Alport UK, a patient support group set up by some of my patients. I have really enjoyed meeting patients and their families at family support days outside the hospital, and they have been very helpful in identifying possible areas of research, as well as raising money to support that work.
In 2011 I organised a sponsored climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of the Evelina Children’s Hospital. Forty six of us made the trip and we raised over £600,000
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I am most inspired by my patients, who do a brilliant job caring for seriously ill children or relatives whose life expectancy is often limited.
I also think that my colleagues working in the laboratories are amazing – they show total dedication to the testing of samples that come from patients who they have not even met.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Interaction with a great bunch of colleagues
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
By working hard and managing to compartmentalise my life. When one aspect is tough there is always a different challenge to pick up that may be a little more rewarding
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
A wonderful husband, who is an amazing cook, plus music. I play the viola in a string quartet and a number of orchestras and just have to get to rehearsals on time. I also go to many concerts – we are so lucky in London at the range of musical events available
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Don’t be afraid to take risks – if they work, the sense of achievement is wonderful, and if they fail you always learn something