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President’s update: April 2018

I am sure everyone reading this will have read about the death of Professor Stephen Hawking – not just a gifted cosmologist, but someone for whom the term “National Treasure” seemed to be invented. Indeed, he was something more than even that – he was an “International Treasure”.

Everyone here at the RSM will however have particularly fond memories of his visit here, just six months ago, when he held the audience spellbound talking about the debt he owed to the NHS for keeping him alive, and his fears for the future. Few can also forget the media circus that descended once it became clear that he was going to make particular criticisms of Jeremy Hunt, and then that Jeremy Hunt was going to reply.

But what I also remember was his sense of humour. Quite how you time a joke via voice technology I have no idea, but he clearly was a master of comedy timing that would have impressed even the late Ken Dodd. We all knew we were in the presence of someone well out of the ordinary, and someone it will not be easy to forget. (You can read a transcript of his lecture published in December in our very own JRSM.

It is amazing just who we do manage to attract to our doors – lured by the twin presence of almost obligatory full houses and the proximity of the John Lewis food hall. I have just flicked through my diary to see who has tread the boards in the last few weeks alone.

Cathie Pilkington was great fun and a tour de force as the Royal Academy Lecturer for 2018, on the topic of “making things happen from stuff”. For those who don’t know her, she is one of our leading sculptors, even if some of her most memorable doll sculptures appeared in my nightmares for days afterwards.

Equally brilliantly delivered, but definitely not such fun, was Dame Sally Davies’ Jephcott lecture on the challenge of antimicrobial resistance, which was almost as scary as some of Cathie Pilkington’s dolls. We had Adam Kay reading from his bestselling account of life as a junior doctor (and it really is a best seller) “This is Going to Hurt”, but also interspersing the seriously tough material that is contained in this with items from his medical cabaret show.

For those who don’t like name dropping look away now, but Adam sang at my 25th wedding anniversary, where we got the full unexpurgated version of his London Underground song. Here it is – and for those who don’t like bad language, I repeat, look away now (this video does come with a warning that it contains language of an adult nature).

And then we had a brace of Royals. And before you ask, I have checked with Pedanticus who assures me that “brace” is the correct word. We had HRH Prince William here to receive an Honorary Fellowship in January. He managed to let slip that he is now doing a Masters in pre-hospital care and said he would be delighted to come back to events related to this long term interest, and I am delighted to say, also to sample some of our offerings around mental health. He also managed to tease me about my sudden inability to identify a couple of the guests who had travelled far for the occasion.

But that gentle teasing was but nothing compared to what happened last week when HRH the Duchess of Cambridge came here for her last official engagement before going on maternity leave.

All seemed to be going fine. She was here to make a major announcement on her own long term commitment to supporting perinatal mental health and early interventions to reduce the subsequent burden of mental health problems in children, and indeed adults.

The place was packed, surprise surprise, the presentations mercifully short but also informative, the panel sparkled, and it was also clear that the RSM’s professionalism in hosting such an event (it wasn’t an RSM meeting) at very short notice has guaranteed further visits.

And even better, the coverage was extraordinary. Front pages of the Mail, Sun and Telegraph, then picked up around the world, because there was no doubt that the Duchess really did look “radiant” as the cliché goes.

But who was the drongo at the back? I am afraid, dear Reader, that was me. And no, I am not going to give you a link to the picture, you can do your own homework if you have nothing better to do. What I will give you is a much better picture. It’s better because:

a) I am not in it
b) I am the empty chair, definitely showing my best side and
c) at least someone is enjoying my introduction.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, I know I have been promising, to paraphrase Cathie Pilkington, some serious domestic stuff for a while now. This can’t be put off any longer, so next month outshining the Duchess of Cambridge, Sally Davies, Cathie Pilkington and all will be our own Fiona Moss, our Dean, as we pen a double act on our new education strategy. More, more I hear you shouting, and for those of you unable to curb your enthusiasm until May, the link to the strategy can be found here.

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