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College honours distinguished figures at diploma ceremony

13 Jun 2023

Two Scots dentists who have brought dental care to thousands of people in Malawi, and the Chair of the umbrella body for all medical Royal Colleges and Faculties, have been made Honorary Fellows of the College.

Two Scots dentists who have brought dental care to thousands of people in Malawi, and the Chair of the umbrella body for all medical Royal Colleges and Faculties, have been made Honorary Fellows of the College.

Vicky and Nigel Milne of Dunoon set up the charity Smileawi following a ‘life-changing’ trip to Malawi in September 2012 to assess dental needs.

Since that time, they have visited the country once a year, carrying out pain clinics and alleviating the suffering of many thousands of people who would otherwise have little or no access to dental care. They are also working side-by-side with Malawian colleagues to bring dental professionals together to share experiences and challenges, and improve dental services for the population.

Leading GP and Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC), Professor Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, was recognised for her significant contribution to healthcare through her work with the Academy, as well as through her role as founding Chair of the National Academy for Social Prescribing. She is also a Trustee of Macmillan Cancer Support, and a Professor of GP Education at the University of Birmingham.

They were made Honorary Fellows at the College’s summer diploma ceremony on Monday (12 June).

Mike McKirdy, President of the College, said: “Since its foundation more than 400 years ago, the College has had a global outlook, with a focus on bringing health professionals together to raise standards of healthcare and improve lives.

“Our Honorary Fellows today have dedicated their lives to improving health, and are wonderful examples of what can be achieved by bringing clinicians together with this shared purpose.

“I am delighted to welcome them to our global College community.”

Vicky and Nigel Milne have been visiting Malawi for over a decade, raising money through donations to run an eight-chair, portable clinic that they take to schools, churches or existing clinics in rural areas. Over the years, they have also taken with them many self-funded volunteers – dentists, dental nursers and students from all over the UK and Europe.

Ms Milne said: “When we first visited Malawi, we wanted to look at what dental services were available, what other help might be needed, and whether we could assist. We quickly found that dental services in Malawi were very poorly supported, yet our colleagues were resiliently carrying out dental treatment in incredibly challenging circumstances.

“That trip was life-changing, and we formed Smileawi, initially as part of the Raven Trust, and then as a charity in our own right, to work together with our Malawian colleagues to improve dental services.”

The couple, who met as students at the University of Glasgow, have also set up a biannual Smileawi conference in Mzuzu, enabling therapists, representatives of other charities, and the Malawian Dental Association to come together to share experiences and challenges

Smileawi is now building relationships with other like-minded organisations. Through contact with the Head of Glasgow Dental School, Vicky and Nigel have been able to engage with dental and healthcare charities, Dentaid and Bridge2Aid.

Mr Milne said: “We are both greatly honoured to have been recognised for our work in Malawi, and we look forward to being Honorary Fellows of a College which takes its role in global health so seriously.”

Dame Helen grew up in Swansea, South Wales, and gained her medical qualification from St Georges Hospital Medical School in 1996. She began working at the University of Birmingham’s Department of Primary Care in 2000, while she was a GP registrar. In 2009, she gained a PhD investigating variation in NHS utilisation of vault cytology tests in women post-hysterectomy.

She was the first female honorary treasurer elected in the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in 2012 and was later elevated to serve as Chair from 2016-2019. During this time, she garnered significant media profile and launched a new vision for General Practice, helping to secure the greatest financial investment in general practice since the formation of the NHS.

Today, as Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal College, Dame Helen works closely with colleagues in government and across the health landscape in all nations of the UK.

As founding Chair of the Board of the National Association of Social Prescribing, she is helping to shape future direction, build strong partnerships, establish an academic basis for the social prescribing movement and raise its profile.

Dame Helen also remains a part-time GP partner at The Westgate Practice in Lichfield and her clinical practice constantly informs her national roles. She was awarded a DBE in the New Years Honours list Jan 2022 for services to General Practice.

Dame Helen said: “The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow holds a hugely special place for me. I have been privileged to know many of its leaders over the years and have consistently been inspired by their vision, their passion, and their depth of commitment to pushing the boundaries of medicine and surgery at a time when the NHS in all four nations is under ever-more pressure.

“I am truly honoured and humbled by this award today, and I am proud to be joining your ranks.

“My personal and professional journey has always been grounded by the patient and putting them at the heart of everything we do. I know that this is shared by the College and I look forward to working with you in the coming years.”

In March this year, the College welcomed new honorary fellows: Professor Sir Chris Whitty for his integral role in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK and his continued commitment to protect health as Chief Medical Officer for England; and Baroness Helena Kennedy for her longstanding achievements as a barrister and her commitment to furthering social justice in medicine and upholding the rights of patients.

Category: College

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