Science of Health Seminars

“We will take advantage of our strategic proximity to top London scientific experts who conduct current groundbreaking research in health, in order to bring this knowledge to our U3A members.” – Helen Muller and Madeline Drake (series organisers)


The seminars will be held between 11.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Union Church and Community Centre at the junction of Ferme Park Road and Weston Park, N8 9PX.
Refreshments are provided at the Science of Health meetings.

Our programme for 2019

25 February 2019

Professor Irene Leigh : What happens when genes go wrong in the skin
Professor Leigh’s talk brings together her research and experience in dermatology spanning a period of nearly 50 years, with her research in molecular medicine since 1981. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of skin cancer, genetic tissue and tissue engineering and she is recognised as an international leader in those fields, holding positions in Prevention Research in London, Dundee, Lyon and Tanzania. One of her significant achievements has been the establishment of Research centres wherever she has been.
Professor Leigh is Dean for Global Engagement and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Dentristy. She has been honoured with an OBE and CBE.

Future dates

Monday 25 March
Monday 29 April, Monday 24 June, Monday 29 July
Monday 30 September, Monday 28 October and Monday 25 November
Speakers will include:
Professor Ann Blandford
Director of the Institute of Digital Health and Human Computer Interaction, UCL
Dr Paramabandhu Groves
Mindfulness practitioner MBCT, trainer and teacher and ex-Clinical Director, Breathing Space
Retired NHS consultant pyschiatrist in Camden and Islington

Professor Fiona Watt
Director, Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, King’s College
Executive Chair, Medical Research Council

Dr Ellis Kennedy
Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Director of Research at the Tavistock Clinic
Honorary Reader, Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, UCL

Past seminars

January 2019

Liz Sampson : What research is teaching us in order to meet the complex needs of frail older people at the end of their lives

November 2018

Margot Waddell : Inside Lives
Psychotherapist and Cambridge educated classicist Margot Waddell’s theme was the understanding of the personality’s journeying through life’s stages particularly the later years of life. She continues to be fascinated by the relationship between psychological theories, our ‘inside lives’, wisdom and knowledge. Margot questioned the classical Freudian theory that different development stages are necessarily age specific: for example that the oedipal stage ends at about 6, or that adolescence ends in the teens. If unresolved issues remain, the different stages can reoccur throughout our lives: later life experiences can push you back into earlier unresolved stages. For example retirement can trigger issues you had leaving school: losing the carapace, your protective covering, and facing a new and unknown future without it. She noted that adolescence is characterized by a strong internal time scales, not congruent with external time. These different time scales needs to be appreciatedand allowed to take their course if adolescence is to be resolved. Demand for psychotherapy has risen by 50% over the last 5 years, and self-harm among young girls is at its highest ever level. These increases seems to have been caused by prevailing examination pressure, lack of self-esteem, anxiety and exhaustion. Adolescence may continue throughout life, as may infantile feelings of
abandonment, separation and loss.

“Lovely to have a conversation with Margot Waddell, author of Inside Lives, who also signed my copy (it was a key text on my psychodynamic training years ago), before her talk today. Very well attended, brilliantly organised and good questions, too.” – Roslyn Byfield. Member no. 308.

October 2018

Dr Marianna Fotaki : Turning fear into purpose: responses to the refugee communities and voluntary organisations in the Mediterranean
Marianna’s talk was based on her Doctoral thesis Lesbos, dreams and choices, arising from her two year project in the Greek islands. The project examined initiatives to help refugees: what motivates local communities and volunteers to set
up these initiatives, and how collective and individual histories might influence local responses to refugees’ needs. To understand how participants themselves interpretthese events, she combines oral stories of volunteer involvement in humanitarian activities, ethnographic research into locally organised responses to refugee arrivals, with macro-level historical analyses. Her overall aim is to learn from successful solutions to the logistical challenges, and tensions between refugees and local inhabitants, to guide present and future policies.

July 2018

Dr David Zigmond GP : 
If you want good personal healthcare – see a vet

David’s David’s session followed a question and answer format. It drew on his anthology If You Want Good Personal Healthcare – See a Vet examining major questions in modern medicine. In his session David outlined his experience and analysis of such complex concerns as: What kinds of human suffering constitutes illness? What is the difference between treatment and healing? How can a personalised service be delivered to patients in a de-personalised and industrialised healthcare system? He looked at the ‘psycho-ecology’ of healing, the meanings we attribute to healing and illness, and the culture of the ailing NHS. Dr Zigmond has an old-school commitment to personal continuity of care and advocacy for his patients. His talk brought an exciting, intriguing, deeply compassionate and humane exploration of the opportunities and challenges facing a GP committed to holistic and personal care.

June 2018

Dr John Ford : The 20 year Global Burden of Disease Study: a profile for England
Dr Ford presented the results of a research study into the global burden of disease, with particular emphasis on the findings in England. The study ranks countries in terms of several health outcomes referring to different countries’ published health statistics. The data covers the proportion of people who die early or live with a disability, induced by selected diseases such as cardiovascular illness, cancer, stroke and respiratory infections. The study shows a significant decline in health outcomes in England since 2008. In 1990 England ranked 10th best in the world on the measure of early loss of life, or years living with disability, due to the selected diseases. At the end of the study the UK ranked 12th best in the world. Life expectancy for people with those diseases in the UK was increasing during the years leading up to 2009. However from 2009, life expectancy suddenly reduced, and illness induced disability suddenly increased in the UK. This change was more dramatic in the UK than in any of the other developed countries covered in the study.

February 2018

Professor Paul Whiting : We need to talk about Alzheimer’s
In his talk Professor Whiting outlined his innovative research into the causes, risk factors and treatment of Alzheimer’s. His research is University based and independent of any drug companies. Research into Alzheimer’s has been limited because the drug companies (who fund much of current medical research) consider it not cost effective. Moreover, all recent drug trials have failed. The last drug discovery was in 1992. Paul’s research fills the gap left by by big ‘pharma’. Chemistry, neural science, biology, pharmacology are working together with therapists on the causes of Alzheimer’s and its treatment. The innovative research is achieving some break throughs. However it takes 15 years to get a drug from the initial research, to GP prescription. So any new treatments will be well into the future.