Professor Sir Liam Donaldson (MBChB 1972, Honorary MD 1999)

Chief Medical Officer

Department of Health

Department of HealthSir Liam initially trained as a surgeon, and went on to hold teaching and research posts in Leicester, where he also spent time in general practice. After training in public health, he became Regional Medical Officer and Regional Director of Public Health for the Northern Regional Health Authority, later becoming Regional Director for the NHS Region of Northern and Yorkshire. During this time he was also the Queen’s Honorary Physician.

In 1998, he became the 15th Chief Medical Officer, holding critical responsibilities across the whole field of health and healthcare. He is the independent adviser to the UK government on health issues, advising the Secretary of State for Health, the Prime Minister and other government ministers. Since taking up the post, Sir Liam has authored landmark reports on issues such as stem cell research, infectious disease control, clinical governance and patient safety. His Annual Reports have strongly championed the need for action on key areas of public health, calling for smoke-free public places and minimum unit pricing for alcohol, highlighting the obesity ‘time bomb’, and raising awareness of the shortage of available organs for transplant.

Sir Liam has chaired the World Health Organization’s World Alliance for Patient Safety since its launch in 2004 and holds honorary academic positions at the universities of Leicester and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, as well as 12 honorary degrees and 6 fellowships. He was knighted in the 2002 New Year’s Honours List in recognition of his contributions to and achievements in health and healthcare.


Why did you choose to study at Bristol?
A mixture of academic and geographical reasons. The medical school had a new curriculum which sounded exciting, and the South West is a very attractive part of the country.

What is your favourite memory from Bristol?
Walking across the beautiful Downs in the morning to lectures.

Who has been an inspirational person in your life?
The late Professor Alan Read, Professor of Medicine at Bristol. My time with him taught me how to think, how to analyse a problem, how to listen and how to present persuasively.

What are you most proud of?
Learning to simplify complexity.

If you could study again, what subject would you choose and why?
English literature, and ultimately to have been a writer.


Bristol University will always have a special place in my heart.
Professor Sir Liam Donaldson MBChB MD FFPHM FMedSci FRCA FRCP FRCP(Ed) FRCS(Ed) (MBChB 1972, Honorary MD 1999)