Stuart Anderson retired at the end of September after six years as Associate Dean of Studies, following a varied career at the School lasting nearly nineteen years.
“Some people have been kind enough to ask why I have decided to stand down at this time, now that there is no formal retirement age. Now that we have a career map at the School there are of course three main phases to an academic career. You start as a Bright Young Thing, when you don’t have a lot to say but you are keen to hear everything that everyone else has to say. Eventually, you become a Wise Old Owl, when you have a lot to say, and everyone wants to hear what it is you have to say. But finally, you become a Boring Old Buffer, when you have lots to say, but actually, nobody wants to hear it any more. The trick I think is to step down before too many people notice that you have made the transition from phase 2 to phase 3. There is also the fact that I have now chaired the Quality and Standards Committee for six years, and there is only so much fun that any one person is entitled to. In the interests of fairness it is time to share the fun around.
I would like to think that I have been able to achieve quite a lot during my time at the School, at least some of which is the result of my having chaired working groups. In fact over the years I have chaired around ten groups examining different aspects of the teaching programme at the School. I am sometimes asked for advice about chairing working groups. I tell people to remember the three golden Rules for chairing working groups. Rule 1; make sure everyone has the opportunity to have their say: Rule 2; Take responsibility for writing the report yourself, so you can say exactly what you intended to say in the first place; and Rule 3; Make the report so long that absolutely no one will read it from cover to cover! That way discussion focuses solely on the wording of the recommendations.
Just like students at the end of their course, at the end of your time in a senior management position at the School you have to carry out an evaluation, and answer those three questions; what was your best memory? What was the worst thing that happened to you? And what was your most embarrassing incident?
The best moment was perhaps attending a meeting of the Quality Assurance Committee of tropEd, the Network for Education in International Health. It was held in the restaurant at the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town; we rattled through the agenda in fifteen minutes and spent the rest of the day slowly walking down the mountain.
My worst moment occurred at the beginning of a two month period when I was acting as both Taught Course Director for the Faculty of Public Health and Policy and as the Teaching Programme Director for the School. By that stage I had completed one hundred life story interviews with retired pharmacists as part of my research on the impact of policy change on professional practice. Some of those retired pharmacists had in their possession valuable documents, sometimes sole survivors of important meetings. They were often keen to pass them on to me for safekeeping and for securing for posterity. I took the view that the chances of fire or theft were lower at the School than at home, so I kept them in my office.
One day I came in, on my way to a meeting overseas, to find Spencer Haggard, until recently chief executive of the Health Education Authority, with his sleeves rolled up and a using a mop and bucket. My office, which was down in the basement (later promoted to Lower Ground floor) was under several inches of water! The main drain passing along the ceiling had broken, and flooded the wall where all my historical records were held. Many were irretrievable, and this was one of two occasions at the School when I had to make a claim against the schools’ insurance policy.
My most embarrassing moment occurred during my time with the NHS Service Delivery and Organisation Research Programme. By that stage I was its academic director, and we had called together all the professors of nursing research around the country to review the nursing service delivery and organisation research agenda. Our keynote speaker was a lady by the name of Abbi Masterson, who was the chief advisor on nursing at the Department of Health. In introducing her I turned to the audience and said ‘I would now like to invite Abbi Titmuss to give us her address.’ Of course my career never quite recovered from that, and I seem to remember that the School lost its contract to manage the SDO Programme shortly after! And I never did get Abbi Titmuss’s address!
My own best efforts to escape from the School have not been entirely successful. The Director has now asked me to convene an Education Review Committee, which will help to shape teaching at the School over the next ten years or so; and the University of London’s International Programme has asked me to take on a number of roles, including chairing some of the panels undertaking periodic reviews of institutions around the world. I will also retain my link with the Centre for History in Public Health at the School to continue my research and writing in the history of pharmacy. But I do also plan to work as a volunteer for National Historic Ships in Greenwich, and also at the Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. So it will still be some time yet before I’m to be found pottering in the garden!”
We would like to thank Stuart for amazing commitment to the School, and wish him all the best in his retirement!