Prof Dame Sally Davies - women leaders insight series

What is your current role?

I’m the Chief Medical Officer for England, which means I’m responsible for public health, at least the advice, and I’m the most senior medical advisor to the UK government.

Who has inspired you throughout your career?

Lots of people have inspired me from the first female consultant I worked for Misha Brasovich - who cared about her patients and yet saw the oddities that made them get better. Professor Sir David Weatherall for how he combined science with looking after patients wonderfully wrote books – FRS. There are so many people.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from someone you see as a mentor?

Be authentic is a great piece of advice. Of course we have to be resilient, we have to learn to listen and have emotional intelligence, but authenticity is essential.

What has been your career highlight to date?

Being the CMO is my career highlight. Every job I’ve done has been better than the last one.

What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

Well like most women of my age I’ve had to be better than the men to get the jobs, and then of course there is the inevitable you make and put forward an idea at a meeting and it’s only when a man says it that it’s taken up. So I’ve faced all the challenges women have along with my own touch of the imposter syndrome – we all have it

What do you see as the greatest challenge in UK health?

For health in Britain to go forward we need not just a wonderful NHS which is a sickness service, we need to move to a prevention paradigm and improve the public’s health. It’s about lifestyle and that’s really difficult.

How important is the WLGH Conference?

The Women Leaders in Global Health is a fantastic opportunity to network to learn from each other – I’m thrilled it’s come to London.

In three words what advice would you give to women embarking on their careers?

Women – hold your nose and jump. Take the risk.