The Institute of Applied Health Research gave a warm welcome to Professor Richard Lilford on his recent return to the University. During his absence Professor Lilford has been a regular and cherished visitor as an Honorary Professor, collaborating and advising on many projects while fulfilling his role as Head of the Centre for Global Health Research, University of Warwick.
I always had a yearning to move into global health but never had the courage to. I was on a successful treadmill of doing research in this country and so the psychological, as much as the practical, opportunity to make the risky excursion into global health never presented itself. Could I have done it all from Birmingham? Probably. Would I have done it if I had just stayed here? Probably not.
Six years ago I was approached to apply to lead a global health research group at the University of Warwick. However, I never fully left Birmingham; for example, I ran the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) West Midlands from both Warwick and Birmingham.
When I was invited to apply to come back to Birmingham I thought 'I've done what I wanted to do' and decided to come back to my alma mater. The new NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West Midlands will remain a collaboration with Warwick.
I will develop ongoing research projects in leprosy and the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Improving Health in Slums. I am also leading a work package on access to acute care in the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery.
I will continue to direct the NIHR ARC West Midlands, which is a five-year initiative to create lasting and effective partnerships across health and social care organisations and universities. The aim is to improve care services within the West Midlands.
The single most important study I did showed that when a baby is premature and growth retarded, it's better to leave it in the mother's womb than to take it out immediately. This was counter to the current practice, and practice did change as a result.
- I discovered that male infertility has a genetic element to it; I was the first in the world to do that
- My original CLAHRC paper, written with Celia Brown,is now the most highly cited paper in the world on step wedge study 'design'
- I was the first doctor to promote the use of Bayesian methodologies in medicine
I've had quite a few firsts – and very disparate!
I'm motivated to do interesting and impactful research on how service can be improved, both in this country and around the world, and also to bring the scientific and enlightenment principles to bear on the murky world of management research.