Interview with Ms Melanie Davies

Melanie Davies is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at UCLH. Melanie specialises in reproductive endocrinology.

Melanie Davies is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at UCLH. Melanie specialises in reproductive endocrinology.

I changed all my A-levels halfway through – I chose arts subjects at first but was much better at science, and medicine combines science and arts. A good doctor needs not just knowledge but skills of interpretation and communication.

I had intended to be a GP, which involved some training in obstetrics, and I loved working on labour ward so much that I stayed, working nights and 84-hour-weeks until I had a baby myself and moved into research. I was inspired by a lecture from Howard Jacobs, then professor of endocrinology at the Middlesex, and had the happiest 3 years of my career working with him. As a consultant I had the best of both worlds – my heart was in maternity work with its joys and dramas, and intellectually the world of IVF and endocrinology has been fascinating and fast-moving.

Robert Edwards was in Cambridge when I was a student there, and the first IVF baby was born when I was studying clinical medicine, now there are 5 million IVF babies so my career has run alongside these incredible advances.

I developed the fertility services at UCLH since being appointed as consultant 20 years ago, and have run the largest UK training programme in reproductive medicine. I’m also clinical advisor to the NICE women’s health guideline programme, based at the RCOG, covering a wide range of topics – for example we’re currently working on care of women at high risk of complications in labour.

I’m on the Scientific and Clinical Advisory Group of the HFEA, which regulates UK practice in assisted conception and research involving human embryos. I was the elected London representative on RCOG Council for many years and I’m currently on the Council of the British Fertility Society and the British Menopause Society.

I became involved in medical politics because of my experience. At that time flexible working didn’t really exist – I was the first part-time trainee in London in a specialty where 100 per cent of the patients but only 10 per cent of the consultants were women. Those at the top were exceptional people, but I wanted medicine to be accessible to my talented friends and colleagues who were leaving the profession because of the lack of flexible training and discriminatory attitudes to women in certain fields.

The MWF was founded by pioneering women doctors at the time of the suffragette movement during the First World War, in which women doctors played a sterling role. Medicine and society have been transformed, there have been huge changes even in my career since the 1990s, but the MWF still has an important role to play, particularly in academia and in decision-making bodies where women are under-represented.

It’s not a large organisation but punches well above its weight. It liaises with the DH, BMA etc on the national stage, and does important work behind the scenes for example in doctors’ pension rights. Perhaps the biggest benefit of membership is networking – whatever your stage and speciality – for informal mentoring, advice and support. There’s a great buzz at MWF meetings as people come together and form lasting friendships.

Yes, lots. Although Cavendish are telling me to retire and take my pension whilst the going’s good, I’m too busy and involved to consider it!

I adore travel – I would like to be a foreign correspondent.

Doctors tend to work hard but play hard. Restaurants and galleries in my downtime, travel to interesting and unusual places in my holidays. I’m writing this from the waterfront in Cape Town, looking at the fantastic view, though I’m really here for the RCOG World Congress.

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