Douglas Noble on the BMJ Group Awards 2011

douglas nobleThe 3rd BMJ Group Awards took place on 18th May. All the great and good in healthcare, national and international, assembled for 13 awards, including the prestigious lifetime achievement award. As the medical bigwigs entered the palatial Hilton Metropole Ballroom in triumphal procession, they were greeted with flashing multicoloured lights, rock music, and a definite sense of occasion. Stella Dutton CEO of BMJ Group appropriately dubbed the ceremony as the “medical oscars” in her opening remarks. 

Gavin Esler then took central stage to explain the events of the evening, but not in ferocious BBC 2 Newsnight style – this was not an evening for critique, but for celebration. 

The meal itself was less like a wedding breakfast and more like a buffet at tables with musical chairs for effect. Networking doesn’t begin to describe the hub of activity from table to table.  Every so often Hugh Grant would sail past, and conversations were brought to a jaw-dropping standstill. 

Then came the awards themselves. What was most interesting was the well-deserved recognition given to healthcare professionals whose work had the biggest impact in the developing world. Richard Feinmann who lifted the Getting Evidence into Practice award for TB diagnosis in Uganda spoke movingly of his feeling that many doctors, even post retirement, have a lot to offer those in such countries. Altruism and compassion ruled. And this should not be scoffed at as tokenism. Five of the 13 awards had a significant link to developing world medicine – impressive given the restructuring of the NHS, job insecurity, and the potential reduction in pay awards and pensions. It would seem our long medical tradition of service to those considerably less fortunate than ourselves is alive and well in economically depressed Britain. David Livingstone would have smiled in his grave. 

Hugh Grant and Klim McPherson received the Health Communicator of the Year award on behalf of Ann McPherson. Grant’s speech was superb, explaining in jest he was Ann’s lover, with an awkward “Four Weddings and a Funeral” turn to her husband, standing by his side. Rapturous laughter and applause followed. Serious comments were made though about the phenomenal DIPEx programme, and there was a sense from all gathered of an award truly deserved. 

Well fed and watered, with of a sense of awe and achievement, the hundreds of faithful trotted home in the little small hours. I headed for the underground hoping I’d make the last tube back to the East End and that I might find a copy of the Evening Standard to pass the time on the significantly less regal District Line. Hugh, roared past me, windows down in a Ferrari. I thought of asking for a lift, but quickly realised he’d be travelling in the other direction.

Douglas Noble has worked in surgery, emergency medicine, public health and for WHO. From 2006 to 2008 he was clinical adviser to the chief medical officer for England. You can follow him on twitter @douglasnobleMD