Dr Anthony Falconer

Doctor of Science Dr Anthony Falconer

Tuesday 16 July 2013 at 11.15 am - Orator: Mr Tim Draycott, MD BSc, MBBS, MRCOG

Mr Vice-Chancellor,

It is my privilege to deliver this oration for Dr Tony Falconer a proud Bristol graduate who, in his own words: has worked in the NHS for the last 27 years, man and boy. He has had a diverse and distinguished career as Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist and lead Gynaecological Oncologist in Plymouth, Medical Officer in rural Zambia, registrar in South Africa; even a year as a psychiatrist in Edinburgh. However, probably the pinnacle of his career has been as President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Birth has touched all of our lives: many of you have children, some of you may have grandchildren, and let’s face it – all of us have been born! However, care for women giving birth is not as good as it could be, or should be and Tony has made it his life’s work to change that. He has been a principled, positive and passionate advocate of improved health care for women in the UK, and across the world.

Tony is a proud graduate of the University of Bristol Medical School. He was accepted in to Bristol University through the clearing system but thereafter his time in Bristol seems to have been a total success: he founded the Galennical’s Hockey team and represented Gloucestershire for hockey as a student. He was in the same year as some other impressively successful alumni: Dr Jackie Cornish, Dr Peter Fleming and Sir Liam Donaldson and most importantly he met his wife Liz, now a retired GP.

However, Tony told me that he has not always been as successful an obstetrician and gynaecologist as he is now. Apparently his performance in his O&G finals was not ‘entirely satisfactory’ and therefore he was sent for what was politely called some ‘supplementary obstetrics’ in Plymouth. Happily at Plymouth he rediscovered his enthusiasm for all things women’s health.

The small issue of his O&G finals notwithstanding, he progressed rapidly through a career in O&G; starting Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Simpson Maternity, followed by a stint in research at Nottingham University investigating fetal stress response to their birth and then a residency at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. He was appointed to a consultant post in Plymouth on the 1st January 1986.

At the RCOG Tony has been involved in service reconfiguration, standards-setting, guideline formulation and the audit of surgical activity and now he chairs the revalidation committee for the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges,

His time working in both rural and urban Africa has coloured his subsequent career, particularly ensuring that the RCOG is actively involved in helping to fulfil the UN Millennium Development Goals through reducing maternal mortality and morbidity in under-resourced countries.

Anyone who has met him or worked with him will recognise his deep seated, principled determination to enable all health care workers to provide the best possible care for the women they look after. He has embraced changes in training, particularly evidence based simulation, and has helped the RCOG to reorganise the administration of training and continuing professional development so that it is, as Sir Liam Donaldson recently observed: a world leader and an example to medical Colleges everywhere.

Tony has most recently espoused an ethical framework for compassionate and safe care 24 hours a day across our obstetric services. He has observed that women’s health care in particular, deals with a myriad of ethical issues, but conceivably one of the single most important current challenges is ensuring that women receive the optimal care day and night, which requires fully trained specialists immediately to hand to deal with the sudden and unexpected problems.

Tony has been the conscience of the RCOG recognising that even with the swirling maelstrom of the current NHS reforms and austerity we should remain focussed on the job in hand; do what we do best – provide the best possible health care for women. The RCOG supports the delivery of safe care and improved performance, providing clear leadership as well as a robust, relevant and transparent set of quality indicators to measure those improvements in care, both in the UK and across the RCOG’s enormous global network of members and fellows.

Moreover, care is delivered by a multi-professional team and Tony completely understands that close team-working with professional colleagues is essential. I recently attended the British Journal of Midwifery Annual Awards dinner where I canvassed all of the current Royal College of Midwifery hierarchy for their observations on Tony. Universally, there was a litany of favourable narratives. So favourable, it was slightly disappointing.

Tony is a new grandfather to a child born here in Bristol, to? his daughter Catherine who is also a scientist at the University of Bristol. He has just retired and tells me he is looking forward to enjoying being a grandfather, pursuing some recent opportunities to return to Zambia and possibly moving to Edinburgh just in time to vote.

Finally, as I have been researching and writing this oration I have reflected on some of the words that have arisen again and again: conscience, compassionate, ethical and equitable. These are Tony’s personal values and they underpin all of his work and achievements helping women across the world. I am delighted to commend Dr Tony Falconer to you, Mr Vice-Chancellor, as eminently worthy of the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.    


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