MSc Medical Microbiology alumnus (1981), Barry Cookson has won the Royal College of Physicians’ Excellence in Patience Care Lifetime Achievement Award 2017.
The Royal College of Physicians’ (RCP) Excellence in Patient Care Awards Medicine 2017 were announced at, the RCP’s annual conference. The awards aim to recognise, celebrate and promote the work that physicians do to improve patient care through education, policy, clinical practice and research.
Barry studied an MSc Medical Microbiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Hammersmith Hospital in 1980. He chose to study at the School because he felt that he needed extra training, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine was the only institution in London at that time offering an MSc Medical Microbiology. Barry went on to help establish an MSc Medical Microbiology programme at the London Hospital (now the Royal London and St Bartholomew’s Hospital), with his colleague Rosamund Williams.
Barry found his degree at the School to be essential to his career and he used the notes from his course for many years after graduating. “The knowledge and rigorous research methods I learnt served me in good stead throughout [my career], exactly as Professor Zuckerman said [it would]. One didn’t know just how much until years later”. “Apart from the superb training, one also met all the experts at the Public Health Laboratory Service, Colindale (now Public Health England) and elsewhere in the UK, an added bonus”.
During his career, Barry found the School’s network useful for meeting experts in the UK. He was able to form what he called ‘wonderful collaborations’ with Jenny Roberts, whose memorial day he spoke at, and later John Edmunds, where they worked together supervising MSc and PhD students.
Barry said that winning the RCP Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 was the pinnacle of his career. “To be recognised by one’s peers in this way is hard to top, especially as I was competing with all specialties internationally; I still have to pinch myself. It has been a cathartic experience to reflect on what one has achieved and what exactly is one’s legacy. This award is not just for me, it is something that has been appreciated by many people that I collaborate with. These collaborators are in many disciplines, such as economics, sociology, modelling, nursing, public health, patient advocacy, and other healthcare professions, in over 50 countries. It has inspired many of them I know. I also did not realise how they felt about me; it is very humbling to hear them say how much I have helped others”.
The RCP said: “What impressed us about Professor Cookson was that his career achievements include so many things that we now take for granted, such as the importance of MRSA carriage, quality control in microbiology, healthcare-associated infections and hand hygiene. His name is not as well recognised as it should be among his fellow physicians and we hope that this award will change that”.
Barry is an Honorary Professor at University College Hospital and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and he is currently semi-retired. A major drive in his career has been to help others, whether they are collaborators or patients. Although he is semi-retired, he intends to continue working as long as the competencies he has gained over the years are still relevant and helpful to improving the quality and safety of patient care and helping new investigators to grow.
Barry’s advice for current students is to “learn from one’s successes and celebrate these; one can, however, usually learn more from one’s mistakes. Give others time to think and don’t forget to do some sport and play an instrument. In the words of Albert Einstein ‘everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler’”.
Congratulations Barry on your award!
Images taken at the RCP reception – copyright Jonathan Perugia 2017.