Dr Graham Winyard CBE FRCP FFPH read medicine at Hertford and the Middlesex Hospital and spent a career in public health and management including six years as the Medical Director of the NHS in England. Now retired, he is happily married and an active granddad.
I decided I wanted to be a doctor in the 4th year of secondary school. This decision, which shaped my entire life, was based on nothing more than doing well in science, an abstract desire to “do good”, and the fact that my grandfather had been a stretcher bearer in the Boer War. I was the first in my family to go to any university, let alone Oxford, and I had so little idea of what to expect that I wondered if the almshouses in St Clements, which I passed on the way to the interviews, might be a College. I was pulled out of a timed practical exam involving woodlice ‘for a bit of a chat’ by Hertford’s now legendary medical tutor Miles Vaughan-Williams, on the basis of which I was offered a place.
Oxford and Hertford were simply astonishing. It was OK to enjoy intellectual discussion into the night. Enthusiasm was fine; you did not have to pretend to be cool. Coming from a boys’ grammar school I was dazzled by the style and elan of the female medics, and in awe of the effortless self-assurance of public school contemporaries. Both groups have generated many life-long friendships. I passed the necessary medical exams but was diverted by life and a broken heart around finals; fortunately a third was not the barrier in medicine that it would have been in other fields. My clinical training was at the Middlesex Hospital in London, now razed to the ground to make way for luxury apartments, but I returned to Oxford for junior hospital posts, re-connecting with my former tutor through a chance meeting in the rough at Southfields golf course.
I eventually chose public health as a career and, like Oxford, this opened amazing opportunities including two years in Papua New Guinea mid-training. Challenging management posts in the NHS (re-shaping services in inner city London; rebuilding a public health department in leafy Wessex) and the Department of Health followed, culminating in 6 years as Medical Director of the NHS in England in the 1990s. There were the inevitable frustrations that come from working in large bureaucracies and with politicians, but also opportunities to think big and bring those ideas to reality. Most satisfying was being able to persuade the Labour Government to include the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in its NHS reform programme, having previously developed the concept in Wessex. There were opportunities to explore completely new areas: I led reviews of Prison Healthcare and of the Defense Medical Services, and for the final eight years of my career was a postgraduate dean, responsible for the training of several thousand junior doctors in a post that combined everything from national policy to pastoral care for individuals in difficulty.
The same intellectual curiosity kindled at Oxford has taken me into new fields in retirement. I belatedly discovered the thrill of academic study for its own sake through a Masters in religions at SOAS. My developing Buddhist practice infuses my personal life and has led to my becoming lay treasurer of a Theravada forest monastery in West Sussex. And my time at Hertford delightfully came full circle in 2015 when I had the pleasure of taking Miles, then aged 97, as my guest to our 50 year Gaudy dinner.