Professor Jane Sandall
Professor of Social Science
& Women’s Health
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I started my career as a midwife and worked in Malawi, Africa for four years in a government hospital, and also had my first two children there. On my return I studied a broad based social sciences degree and became hooked, and went on to take a PhD in Sociology.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
Childbirth and reproduction makes a fascinating lens through which to look at different societies and cultures, and sociology provides a way to look at the link between personal troubles and public issues. My research interests are looking at cultural and social influences on how maternity care is organised and delivered, and the implications for the people who work in, and use such services. Recent research has looked at quality and safety in health care and innovation and implementation.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
I lead a Cochrane review of Midwife-led continuity models of care which is also reproduced in the WHO Reproductive Health Library. Findings show a significant effect on pre-term birth, which has wide ranging implications for future research and practice. Findings have informed policy in the UK, and internationally, in Canada, the USA, Ireland, Brazil, Canada, and Australia. More recently, our review was cited in a Lancet series on Midwifery which aims to inform future workforce and health system development Millennium Development Goals for the future.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I have found the work of Ann Oakley particularly inspiring because her work communicates powerful clear messages to health care providers and managers, yet remains sociologically informed. I also find her use of personal experience insightful as a woman academic with children.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
Getting funding for a PhD Fellowship from the Department of Health was transformational. It enabled me to study full time and still afford childcare for three children.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
I am based in the Women’s Health Academic Centre based at St Thomas’ Hospital. I enjoy being based in a busy lively multi-disciplinary research centre and working with colleagues across South London. I also enjoy the international collaborations which provide an opportunity for comparative work.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
Good support and a brilliant PA. It is easy to say no to things you don’t want to do, but hard to say no to things that you do want to do.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
I am not sure balance is the right word. Life is to be lived to the full and if you enjoy your work and have outside interests and a lively family life, somehow it all fits in.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Follow your heart and intellectual passion as much as you can. Academic work takes up much time, so it’s really important to enjoy it as much as you can.