From student to Dean of Medicine

Professor David Adams has a long history with Birmingham Medical School. An MBChB graduate of the University, he is now Dean of Medicine and Head of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences. On the eve of the Medical School building’s 80th anniversary on 14 July 2018, Professor Adams reminisces about his time as a medical student. 

I never planned to become Dean of Medicine.

It was only during my time at Medical School, and particularly during the clinical years, that I began to see that actually there were other options other than being a clinician.  I became fascinated by research and because I was successful as a researcher my career developed in a way that was a huge surprise to me, and probably an even bigger surprise to most of my contemporaries!

Professor Philip Gell, an eminent immunologist, stimulated my long-standing interest in immunology as a student.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and was very eccentric; he never wore socks and would march up and down the front of the lecture theatre, never making eye contact with anybody.  However, the content of his talks was really exciting.  He was at the cutting-edge of immunology as the field began to take off and it was inspirational to be taught by someone who was a true pioneer in his field.

Medical students today are taught a lot more about human factors and team working.

When I was a student, things like communication, empathy and how to relate to patients were not major parts of the curriculum.  They were aspects of being a doctor that you were expected to pick up by example rather than through formal teaching.

I still get nostalgic when I walk through the front doors of the Medical School coming to work.

The core of the Medical School is still the same, but we’re adding state-of-the-art facilities around it. The Leonard Deacon Lecture Theatre and the Wolfson complex are great facilities for students. The research laboratory buildings have changed profoundly since my day.

Professor David Adams

The one piece of advice I would give to my younger self is to have more confidence.

People can suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’, where you think ‘how on earth have I got to where I’ve got given the fact that everyone else is so much smarter than me?’ It’s only in retrospect when you look back and think, ‘well, actually, I probably did deserve to get where I’ve got to’.



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