Untold wealth and wishful thinking

December 22, 2006

Name: Trudie Roberts

Job: Head, Leeds University School of Medicine

Background: First-class honours degree in anatomy and a degree in medicine from Manchester University, followed by junior medical posts. In 1985, I completed a PhD in cancer immunology. After further training in clinical immunology and allergy, I was appointed senior lecturer in transplantation immunology at Manchester and director of the New Heart New Start Transplantation Research Laboratory in South Manchester. In 2000, after a midlife crisis (I wanted to enjoy myself more), I was appointed professor of medical education and director of the Medical Education Unit, Leeds. In January, I became head of the School of Medicine.

Working hours and conditions: The reasons I applied for the post of head were: obscene wealth; absolute power; a better office; and a car-parking space. I've achieved none of these goals! I work about 70-80 hours a week.

Number of students and staff: I am responsible for about 1,300 medical undergraduates and about 600 taught postgraduates. I work with large numbers of National Health Service clinicians as well as academics.

Biggest challenges: The continual "crises" that distract senior academics.

My advice is to ignore most of these and get on with things that really make a difference; when you look up, the crisis has usually subsided.

Failing that, announce that you are dealing only with major catastrophes this week.

Worst moment in university life: The day I started at Leeds, April 1, 2000.

I had travelled 50 miles on the M62 through a freak blizzard. I arrived at the car park to be told I could not enter the university because I had no parking sticker. After a "frozen" altercation with the controller, I was allowed through with a dire warning of clamping.

What is your working space like? Probably the most uninspiring office I have ever had, which, bearing in mind I have worked in several hospitals that were workhouses in a previous life, is saying something.

Which university facilities do you use? I occasionally use the gym but as I loathe communal washing and changing facilities - the result of an ageing body and a desire for hygiene - I don't go as often as I should.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? Car-parking attendants - I'm thinking about buying a Hummer.

Best excuse for bad behaviour: "He's had his car clamped."

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