29 March 2022

Growing up in a Northern working-class household during the 1970s, I could hardly avoid televised ‘beauty’ contests in which women paraded their full round of assets for judgement by men.

In the intellectual part of the competition, the women explained their motivations for competing and what they would make of the job if selected. Typical responses indicated they proposed to spread harmony around the world by travelling, meeting people and doing good work.

As a child, I was unable to parse exactly how munificence phantasmagorically arising from female pulchritude might be brought to bear on complex international problems. But the idea of travelling the world and meeting people to ‘do good’ took root as a worthy goal for a Girl.

Forty-odd years later, your plain-featured President was looking forward to gadding about Across the Universe. Who knew that showing off would very soon dwindle to no more than a twinkle in my very ordinary eye, leaving me with ‘doing good’ as my only goal?

As a woman in her 50s whose eyebrows had beaten a slow retreat to the dominant march of rosacea, and with a strong tendency towards what is euphemistically referred to as a ‘potty mouth’, I confess how daunting I found doing anything at all by video call, let alone ’doing good’. ”Is it OK if we record this meeting?” translated in my panicked brain as I’ll cry instead.

In the setting where my academic work by which, in some measure, I defined myself had come to a sudden, screeching halt, I had no idea how to support my lab through the trauma. My programme grant renewal was in tatters. I literally feared for my life when I stepped into my ward attending service.

The last dregs of my only-child show-off tendencies had entirely evaporated. I felt like a Nowhere Man in a leadership role, and at times bitterly regretted putting my head above the parapet to try to assume such a role. Who TF was I, to be leading anyone anywhere?

In short, I felt silly, pointless and a bit embarrassed. I tell you this in the hopes it speaks directly to all of you: my seniors, peers and younger colleagues. Most people who behave with apparent self-assurance in public have another side. That side wants to hide under the desk during a Zoom call and lock themselves in a hotel room during a conference.

Correspondingly, every one of our ostensibly less outspoken colleagues will be a holder of equally valid and strongly-held opinions that they would appreciate being heard.

In working my way through how to respond to the pandemic together with my BSH colleagues from all backgrounds, I have learnt a lot about why and hopefully how people should Come Together, regardless of where they are on the Myers-Briggs grid.

That I arose from wallowing in my Misery at how little I could personally contribute to Fixing a Hole in the entire fabric of our society was entirely due to the strength and determination of the colleagues I saw around me. If I have done anything at all to help you during my term of office, that speaks to your strength and not to mine.

So many of you worked Eight Days a Week to uncover the impact of COVID and COVID vaccination on our patients and vaccinate our society. Risked your own health to take care of our incredibly sick patients. Some of the outstanding work that you have done will be showcased and celebrated at the BSH Annual Scientific Meeting next week. Conversely, we will be able to share our grief at the passing of dearly loved members of our community.

I have seen the BSH community is strong and determined, but it’s obvious we will need to be. We have never more needed an overarching body that advocates for our profession. The value of cooperation and collaboration and speaking with one voice, both among us and between us and other bodies – e.g. RCP, RCPath and others – has never been clearer.

Any minor frustrations and annoyances between one centre and another or between colleagues competing for jobs or grants are ephemeral compared to the enormous challenges we face in our country and how we work with the rest of the world.

Things are not getting slowly and steadily better. We cannot be complacent that the NHS will even continue to exist. We have enormous economic problems heaped upon a huge legacy of unfairness and inequality. We anticipate tremendous workforce deficiencies. As colleagues, you will need to support each other to feel strong enough to speak out and act.

I have every confidence your next President, Josh Wright, will be thoughtful, strong and supportive. You have a very talented Board committed to helping you tackle real-world problems in haematology. And a capable and facilitatory BSH office staff who know how to help make that happen.

I am really looking forward to swanning about at the BSH Annual Scientific Meeting and seeing you all in person.

And in the end 
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make

 

1. The Beatles, “The End”, Abbey Road, Apple Records, 1969
2. The Beatles, “Girl”, Rubber Soul, Parlophone, 1965
3. The Beatles, “Across the Universe”, Let it Be, Apple Records, 1970
4. The Beatles, “I’ll Cry Instead”, A Hard Day’s Night Parlophone, 1964
5. The Beatles, “Nowhere Man”, Rubber Soul, Parlophone, 1965
6. The Beatles, “Come Together”, Abbey Road, Apple Records, 1969
7. The Beatles, “Misery”, Please Please Me, Parlophone, 1963
8. The Beatles, “Fixing a Hole”, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Parlophone, 1967
9. The Beatles, “Eight days a week”, Beatles for Sale, Parlophone, 1964
10. The Beatles, “The End”, Abbey Road, Apple Records, 1969