Interview with Dr Elizabeth White

Our financial practice was created by a doctor who could not find the specialist support he needed nor the caliber of expertise his challenging financial affairs required. Dr Mark Martin is now chairman, overseeing the company’s activities with an innate understanding of the issues that matter most to you.

Dr Elizabeth White retired from general practice in 2011. In 1976 she joined a single handed GP and together, grew the partnership into a teaching practice (both for medical students and for trainee GPs). The practice also took on international research including pioneering work in HPV vaccine. At the time of Elizabeth’s retirement, the practice had five partners, plus salaried doctors and thirty employees. Here she talks about her passion for playing the piano…

While I appear extrovert, deep down I am actually quite shy and have a need to challenge myself and strive for perfection in everything that I do?

Daily piano practice is now part of my schedule. As well as giving me great pleasure, it brings mental peace – an escape from the world's troubling news. However much I love my husband, my children and my most gorgeous grandchildren, the piano playing is my own little world.

My husband and I both share a passion for classical music. We go to concerts and opera whenever we can. As well as ENO and Covent Garden (ah, if only the cash was endless...) we have been to performances all over the world. Basically, wherever we travel, we try to experience opera and music. As to the piano, we love the intimacy of the Wigmore Hall, the enchantment of St Johns, Smith Square, and for bigger pieces the grandeur of the Royal Festival Hall. Chopin is undoubtedly my favourite composer, but I love many others, particularly Beethoven.

My father died at 72; my mother though still alive at 94, has severe dementia which developed over five years. I dread that I might inherit this so do everything to prevent it: for physical exercise, we maintain our large woodland garden, forever pruning, chopping, chipping and hauling logs for the wood-stove. We work up a sweat even though we are well tooled-up - three chainsaws in the shed. In summer I swim and in winter go to the gym to supplement this. I got a FitBit for Christmas. It buzzes to show ten-thousand steps by tea-time every day. I don't understand how anyone can get fat!

For mental exercise, it's reading, playing Contract Bridge, and learning new piano pieces by heart. Recent reports say that fresh mental challenges help to stave off dementia better than practicing skills which are already familiar. So the search is on for new skills to learn.

We both used to ski many weeks each winter working as ski guides for the Ski Club of Great Britain. More recently, we have done much long-distance travelling to wild and wonderful places. We want to see the world before the Insurance Companies tell us we are too decrepit. We still charter sailing yachts now and again. All the years I practiced as a doctor, my reading was mostly of the medical journals. Now that I no longer have that obligation, I like to read literature, especially thought-provoking fiction.

I grew up in communist Poland. Each year, we would dress up for the May Day Parade. My father was an accomplished surgeon, and one year dressed my brother as a doctor and myself as a nurse. He had strong, traditional opinions about gender roles. But so did I as his daughter. I told my family that I would be the doctor, and that was that! (My brother hated the sight of blood and became a lawyer.)
I moved to England aged 20, having married a Brit and joined Manchester Medical School after 2nd MB. It was tough studying medicine while learning English at the same time. I was determined and it all worked out. I qualified with distinction and became houseman on a professorial medical unit. The professor took me under his wing, and declared "You are far too bright to be a surgeon!" I soon got my MRCP, but came to realise I far preferred hands-on diagnostic medicine to academia. I moved to general practice. I liked being in charge, and interacting closely with my patients, and seeing that my work made them well.

While I appear extrovert, deep down I am actually quite shy and have a need to challenge myself and strive for perfection in everything that I do?

There is no right or wrong way to spend each moment of your life. There is no scale or measure for this. It's for each individual to decide what's best for them to do.

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