At some stage in the future I want to write something on: (a) social media and narcissism (I’ve been posting like a mad thing and want to see if this is a sign of personality decline); (b) deconstructing academic job adverts (which will be hilarious… but since I have a few of ours out now I’d better delay that for a while); (c) the “other”, fictional Patrick Leman (again, I’ll resist any descent into narcissism as best I can); and (d) I’ve something brilliant lurking on gender stereotyping in different areas of psychology (but that requires some analysis of statistics, and as ever I’m short of time to do that this week). So time, energy and a deficit of creative juices does not permit any of these insightful and rib-tickling pieces this week. But it’s good for me to write, and they will come in the future. Stay tuned. And, incidentally, any ideas for future blogs will be very gratefully received…
In fact, it has been such a spectacular week at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) that it is hard not to write about these. Plus this week sees the arrival of a new cohort of students and the return of others – a new academic year – and I’d also like to share some reflections on that.
Let’s begin with a review of a magnificent week at King’s and specifically the IoPPN. It’s not every day you get to meet Jeremy Hunt, particularly if you’re a junior doctor and he takes the back route through the long corridor next to the fire exit door to avoid the chance of any unintended encounters. But I’m not a doctor, at least not the type currently finds he is allergic to, and it is slowly dawning on me I’m not that junior any more. While I, and colleagues, successfully engineered our way out of a dreaded photo op, we did manage to exchange words and see him off the premises without him taking back the £66 million he promised to fund our Maudsley/IoPPN Biomedical Research Centre. Ours was the country’s first mental health BRC and by far the largest award in the area this funding round. At the same time, Guy’s and St Thomas’s Trusts were also awarded a similar amount making a total of £130million to King’s, the second largest amount in the country and more than Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial.
The BRC was not the only bit of great news. We also heard that a colleague has been named as the ESRC Mental Health Leadership Fellow. This is an important award, to be announced in a couple of weeks, to spearhead the Council’s work in mental health – an area that has been widely trailed as it funding priority for the government. That also the Institute has had significant success with the Wellcome Trust recently makes it clear that the IoPPN is Europe’s leading centre for research and education in psychology, psychiatry and mental health. (Of course I do have at my disposal a stack of statistics… And I am not shy about using them when circumstances recommend it. But I’m not going to do that here. Let’s just enjoy the moment?)
This week we’ve also marked the departure of Prof Shitij Kapur from the Institute with a party, speeches, and it truly brilliant Bollywood style tribute video. I have worked and have many friends in departments in many institutions. i wish them all well. Each has its strengths, each its own identity, and I have been lucky in my career to have worked in all of them. Some are doing great, others… Anyway, I can say with honesty nowhere has the warmth, collegiality, and respect among students and staff alike that I find at IoPPN. All of that was evident in the video as was a talent for direction, humour, and dancing! A link to the video isn’t available yet but we very much hope it will be soon. As I have said before leadership is a moral task. And, in a similar vein, it is also a human task. Shitij, as all the speakers noted, is an exceptional leader and a very kind human being. The emotion felt at his leaving party was of the very best type. He will be missed.
With the future comes a renewed BRC, a renewed cafe diner (and it’s looking good!) and a new group of students. This week I will be meeting new and returning students and I have to say I always look forward to this time of year. There is something great about new starts and the sense of opportunity and anticipation that comes with them. I feel it, now and when I was a school child and student myself, every year. I feel it before my own children return to school and that’s not just levels of stress ratcheting up in the Leman household. If there wasn’t a sense of anticipation it wouldn’t be a new start. And this year the wind is in our sails more than ever thanks partly to our huge successes that build our self-confidence as a global leader. So I make no apologies for an ordinary blog this week. Normal business will resume, don’t worry, next week. But for now to all of us: well done and good luck.