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Announcements > News > Inspirational Sidcotians - Peter Openshaw CBE & Professor of Experimental Medicine

Inspirational Sidcotians - Peter Openshaw CBE & Professor of Experimental Medicine

Many thanks to Peter Openshaw, CBE & Professor of Experimental Medicine for sharing some of his Sidcot memories and insights on persuing a career in Medicine with us.
11 Jan 2022
Written by Rachele Snowden
United Kingdom
Peter Openshaw
Peter Openshaw

What did you enjoy most about your time at Sidcot?

Making friends and exploring the Mendips. I joined the school when I was 13, a couple of years after most of the class. I was so glad to be away at school rather than at home in Glastonbury- it meant that I could do my growing up away from watchful eyes.

What were your favourite classes?

I loved chemistry and physics. I was quite into biology and maths as well, but teaching was not quite as memorable. I enjoyed English and German, but I really liked woodwork and craft- perhaps for the same reasons that I enjoyed benchwork once I started doing research.  

Which lessons were you less keen on?

French as a let-down. I was very well drilled in French at my previous school and rather treading water at Sidcot. I liked running, but (unlike the others) was not allowed to go running on the hills unsupervised because the teacher thought I was up to no good.

What / who inspired you to follow a career in medicine?

I must thank my parents. My mother was at Sidcot and got into Oxford to study medicine. She met my father there and they became GPs in Glastonbury. I thought medicine was so interesting, and I liked the idea that you could ask patients virtually anything and they might tell you the truth.

How did your time at Sidcot prepare you for your career?

The emphasis on kindness and curiosity were key. I still sometimes look at the Advices and Queries when I want inspiration about how to conduct myself and build a team. The bits about God are not always relevant, but the general sense of them is right. Respectfulness, tolerance and trusting your own senses are timeless.

What would be your advice to current Sidcotians looking to follow a career in medicine?

It can be fascinating but very demanding. You should go into it if you can’t decide between Arts and Sciences, like people and are good at listening. You need to be energetic, able to cope with little sleep and to be motivated by a burning interest in it and in patients. Don’t go into it to make money; the pay is OK, but that’s not the point. You sacrifice a lot: you can’t party as hard as other students, must behave well even in your time off.  Once you complete your training you emerge blinking into the light and wonder where your 20s went.  

What has your career path been?

After 6th form, I went to Guy’s to study medicine. It was there I realised just how hard other people worked and what you needed to do to get on. I thrived at medical school, loved being a junior doctor but realised that research was what I really wanted to do. You can potentially find things out that transform lives, not just patch them up.  You are surrounded by bright and quirky people, no two days are the same and you get to be your own boss and travel the world (if you are very lucky and work hard).  

What achievements are you most proud of either in your career or personally?

Getting to be the President of the British Society for Immunology, the first clinician to have that role. And becoming Senior Consul at Imperial College, a role that combines being a magistrate and mentor- the ‘Conscience of the College’.

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