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One of my best days in the School of Medicine

8 April 2016

Yesterday, I attended the first Cardiff University School of Medicine Away Day and I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed seeing my colleagues. I enjoyed talking to people that have helped, advised and supported me over 16 years. I enjoyed the smiles, the hellos and the hope. From Professional Services to Professors and from innovators to educators, I was impressed.

Professor John Bligh formally launched MEDIC21, a project to change the School, with the strapline: “collaboration, commitment and culture”. Next was the inspirational speaker, Damian Hughes. Damian advises about elite performance and change management. Damian made us laugh. Laughing together is a great way to build relationships.


From Damian, I took away these key messages:

Control the controllables

  1. What we think
  2. What we say (positive or negative language)
  3. What we do. (positive or negative behavior)

Failure is not failure but an opportunity to learn

Richard Branson refuses to admin that he has failed. Damain talked about a mindset that is not “win or lose” but rather “win and learn”. The skill of learning from our so called failures is a good survival strategy. In research, we ‘fail’ a lot. We ‘fail’ because we try to do difficult things. But we learn and we try to solve the difficult problems. We learn by ‘failing’. Using this approach more broadly across the School and the University seems worthwhile.

Change isn’t easy

Those who try to change things face:

  1. Ridicule
  2. Violent opposition
  3. Before the new ideas are accepted as self evident.

Damian urged each of us to shape the future that we want to be part of…

Setting the priorities

We broke into groups to discuss the kind of School we wanted. The tables were a mixture of professional services, teachers and researchers. Our table came up with this for our vision of the the School we wanted: ourSchool

Hat tip to Ruth Coomber and Rosemary Granger.

We discussed priorities which included:

  • More staff support and development to develop high quality teachers and researchers
  • Building innovative networks
  • Celebrating success and lessons learned
  • Creating innovation time and safe creative spaces
  • All this on a “bed” of communication and flexibility


Developing an action plan

After lunch, I had a bit of an existential crisis. I was asked to decide which area I wanted to contribute to: innovation, research, culture or teaching. Given my CLL research, my work on Athena SWAN and my broad teaching portfolio, I was challenged. I decided to join a teaching table.

We were asked to identify potential actions that might lead to the type of School we wanted to create. I was inspired by our discussion. We found some solutions to some problems. Allan Theophanides told us how we could find a list of all the modules run by the School of Medicine on SIMSBilly McWilliams, Sharon Norman and others from the PGT teams told us how they use a regular review to improve their course. I can learn from this!

The key actions points for me:

  • Engage with College Mentoring Programme (
  • Share information through Yammer and the like
  • Look forward, work within and use the new MEDIC structures
  • Use more shoe leather to meet people face to face
  • Remember my colleagues with gratitude 🙂

Homeward Bound

One the way home, I had a drink and I discussed experiments with key collaborators, Chris Fegan and Chris Pepper. Then, a ten minute train ride led to the lovely smell of a roast chicken dinner. I spent some lovely time with my family. A great day of positive work and home life balance – things that make working in Wales special.

My thanks to John Bligh, Anna Hurley, Karen Cook and everybody who put together this inspirational day.


Finally, echoing my mind is this quote that Damian left us with:

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Probably misattributed to Mother Teresa – interesting & powerful.