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A day running a medical school

Profile: Professor Tony Avery

Professor Tony Avery

Age 54

Role Dean of the School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, and GP partner at Chilwell Valley and Meadows Surgeries, Nottingham

Hours worked per week 10-12 hours daily Monday to Thursday; 8-10 hours Friday and 8 hours most weekends (Mondays spent in general practice)


To keep on top of my workload I usually do an hour of work before breakfast. This morning I prepare for a meeting with a major benefactor to the university, and draft a citation for a colleague who is being put forward for a knighthood.


I relax over breakfast with my wife and then cycle to the medical school through the local deer park; it is always a great way to start the day, whatever the weather, and especially as today is sunny.


I fit in a phone call to a colleague about a delicate HR issue, then catch up on email.


I am personal tutor to two medical students in each of the five years of our course, and this morning I meet with Charlotte and Megan (who are first years) to discuss their academic progress and what they are doing outside of medicine (badminton and bouldering respectively). Both students are enjoying their course, particularly whole-body dissection (our anatomists are very good at teaching this), and their clinical placements.


I meet with one of our heads of division to discuss the HR issue mentioned earlier and reach a satisfactory conclusion. This sort of thing draws on my experience as a GP, which includes careful listening, respect for the other person’s views, formulating a plan and coming to a shared decision.


I’m leading a major study for the Department of Health to help understand the frequency and causes of significant avoidable harm in primary care. This morning I chair our monthly teleconference with colleagues from Nottingham, Cardiff and Manchester. After many months of preparation, the project is ready to go live and there is a sense of excitement in the team.


I meet with the major benefactor, along with the research team he has funded, to explain the governance of the funding scheme and how his donation is being used to develop treatments for one of the most serious forms of childhood cancer. He is impressed and I learn later that he is considering making a further donation.


I have a meeting with our school manager to discuss space issues. Three of our research teams have won multi-million pound awards, and we are struggling to find space for the extra staff. We come up with a plan that we hope will cause the least disruption, although one of the teams will have to decide whether to move to another site in the medical school in order to get the space they need.


After two hours of other meetings, I catch up with my PA and give a final check through my Dean’s Report – a presentation for our school of medicine management committee (which can be a bit like Prime Minister’s question time). We are about to launch a new general practice attachment that will double the amount of time students spend with GPs in clinical years. The strapline for the new course is ‘General practice can be anything you want it to be…’ which means we are encouraging students to focus on things they are interested in (hopefully this will encourage them to consider general practice as a career). Also, my GP academic colleagues are doing a fantastic job promoting general practice to medical students through a range of initiatives, including giving talks to the medical students’ GP society.


I meet our university campaigns team to discuss finances for one of our major charity donations, and plans for the university’s campaign to raise funds for breast cancer research.


I undertake an appraisal with one of our senior managers who has recently moved to another role; this is one of around 25 appraisals I do each year with clinical academics, managers and researchers. I think my experience counselling patients and mentoring colleagues helps to make these positive and productive.


I cycle home. Friday evenings are usually spent relaxing with a pleasant meal.