Sir Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has worked in clinical tropical medicine for 50 years, reinventing field research and making discoveries that have led to sharp declines in illness and death from malaria, meningitis and pneumonia. Yesterday we recognised these achievements with our MRC Millennium Medal, and here Brian tells us about his working life, the joys and challenges of working in Nigeria and The Gambia, and why he’s most proud of the scientists he’s trained along the way.
Career in brief
- Clinical training, followed by three years in Nigeria
- Wellcome Trust fellowship in clinical immunology
- Ten years in Nigeria followed by 15 years directing MRC Unit, The Gambia
- London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and many projects in Africa
- 2008 Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize for outstanding achievements in medical research
Some people thought I was throwing my career away when I went to Africa. I was a bright student and was on track to become an eminent doctor via the standard pathway when I applied for a registrar position at University College Hospital Ibadan in newly independent Nigeria. This was 1965 and the hospital was incredibly well equipped then – it was as if Hammersmith Hospital where I’d been working had been transplanted into Africa.
I spent about three years in Ibadan. The Biafran war started during this time and I went from being a junior doctor on a ward with eight doctors to having to help out in paediatrics and the emergency room as many doctors left the hospital during the war. It was a very steep learning curve. Read more