I don't get nervous..actually I don't "do" nervous...but after a long time, as I stepped up to the podium for a public lecture, there was the stirring of butterflies in the stomach.Ken Shaw, that doyen of diabetes, the father figure behind the development of the Portsmouth diabetes centre had just introduced me and invited me to commence the Mary MacKinnon memorial lecture..and I took a deep breath..and a pause.Time seemed to stand still for a moment as I stood up on stage and looked at the audience...a packed hall, a lot of friendly faces, our own team, patients I knew...colleagues across the spectrum of healthcare, industry...they were all there...but most poignantly in the audience sat Mary's husband and brother...this wasn't just a lecture, this was the first lecture after she had passed away. Before the lecture started,Ewen MacKinnon had clasped my hand to say "I know you will be good"...and the enormity had sunk in slowly.
This was always going to be a difficult lecture...standing amongst the midst of fellow professionals...being the youngest recipient always runs the risk of reinforcing the label of an upstart, the rebel...so the balance had to be right...challenge but not spill into cockiness, push but not to the extent of pushing people away....and then there was the added bit of Mary's untimely demise which made it all so poignant.
Truth be told,I had really struggled with getting the slides for this lecture done and Ewen's email 2 weeks previous to the lecture had been a huge help..simply because it said.."Challenge as that's what Mary would have wanted you to do...she never believed in silos, she always believed in the strength of a team...be yourself"
So I decided to do just that...probably after a long time, for just that session, I let "Brand Partha" rest..and I approached it as the boy who went to medical school simply because his dad told him he would never get as much satisfaction from changing someone else's life, as I would get from being a doctor. Yes, the physical flashiness persisted ( I won't bore you with the story of the green jumper)...but on that stage, I was..myself. The rest? Went a bit like a blur...next thing I remember is an applause, a lot of smiling faces..and as I strode off the stage, some kind words started filtering into my ears..."thank you"; "inspired".. A warm hug from Pratik, a squeeze on the shoulder from Mayank, an appreciative nod from Darryl and Iain...lots of handshakes...and they continued even later during the day...some notable ones being from Pete Carey & Karen Adamson (meant a lot guys!)..good friends who had kind words, trainees saying they would try something different, nurses deciding to think differently, GP colleagues appreciating the focus on mutual respect, lots of tweets in the social media stratosphere...all lovely, warm and fuzzy. This whole exercise was an attempt to try and ask others to see things differently, appreciate the power of working together, think differently and what we could do as a community for diabetes care...past the politics, past the old school siloed working, past the belief of self protectionism, past the corrosive cynicism.
But on this day what mattered was only one thing. I walked up to Mary's family....her brother clasped my hand to say thank you....and then I looked at Ewen. A hand on the shoulder...he leant forward..he sounded emotional...and whispered.."Mary would have been proud of that...thank you so much". A small lump in the throat appeared..a quick clenching of jaw to suppress any emotion...I could only smile back...and I knew my job was done. Yes, this was about inspiring, making people think differently...but above all, this was also a tribute to one of the great figures of diabetes care. Diabetes UK, thank you for asking. Hopefully wherever she is, she would have smiled too.
Rest in peace x