‘Inclusivity is key to our identity’: Glasgow Medical School appoints new female head

Dr Margaret McMillan replaces Professor John Paul Leach as the new interim head of undergraduate medicine

Glasgow Medical School has appointed a new female head of undergraduate medicine on an interim basis as it faces ongoing controversy surrounding a “culture of misogyny” within the school.

Dr Margaret McMillan, a kidney specialist who previously held the role of Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at the university, will take charge until “early 2023” whilst the school undertakes a “robust and competitive” recruitment process to find a permanent head.

In a letter to students and staff, head of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing, Professor Matthew Walters said he was “delighted” to appoint Dr McMillan adding: “Margaret is a nephrologist who has served for many years as a teacher and advisor within the school, and her experience will be of great value to us over the next few months.

“Inclusivity and diversity is a key part of our identity as a School and across the University

“We are making progress with our action plan have recently secured the services of an external consultancy firm and I will of course update you further as this plan is rolled out over the next few months.”

Dr McMillan assumes her new position at a challenging time for the Medical School. Last month it was announced Professor John Paul Leach was to leave his role as head of undergraduate medicine amid an ongoing investigation into his conduct.

According to The Herald, this followed “multiple” complaints from students and staff.

Professor Leach has maintained he is not leaving due to this disciplinary process and that “there is no case to answer”. He told The Herald: “There is no bullying or misogynistic behaviour of which I’ve been guilty and no sanction so I leave with my record at the university clear.”

Professor John Paul Leach denies any wrongdoing (via YouTube)

A separate investigation into “gender-based bullying and discrimination” within the Medical School was opened by the university in January.

It found “behaviours were uncovered that fell short of our high professional expectations”, however the report found “no individuals culpable”.

Staff within the school have offered a damning assessment of the culture.

Dr James Going resigned after more than 30 years claiming a “culture of misogyny is flourishing” within the Medical School.

In an open letter, he said: “I and others have been waiting for evidence that people with authority in the university have the will and the backbone to do something effective about it.”

“Surely it cannot be true that people in positions of authority in the University are more concerned to protect what they imagine to be its good name, than with justice.”

Following Professor John Paul Leach’s departure last month, Professor Walters, described him as “talented”, adding the Medical School was “very sorry to be losing [him]”.

Dr McMillan’s appointment may be perceived by some as an attempt from the Medical School to show it is listening to its critics.

Dr Going had recently spoken to BBC Scotland where he said: “There is very good reason to believe that women in academic roles in the medical school are being treated differently to males in comparable roles.

“I would categorise it as undermining. There was also emerging, I understood, a culture in which women were sidelined, minimalised, their contributions quite frequently ignored, even to the extent of being talked over in meetings.”

Current female medical students told The Glasgow Tab: “Gender disparity in the medical school has been a longstanding issue. People who try to address it just get hushed.”

Another student told of her direct experience with misogyny, alleging she was told by a male senior lecturer she should be doing a “correspondence course”, to become a “secretary” instead of medicine.

Professor Walters, said: “The wellbeing of everyone in our community will always be our prime concern, and we are committed to ensuring that all staff and students in the University and its Medical School feel safe, supported and free from discrimination or abuse of any kind.

“Following concerns over gender-based bullying and discrimination within the Undergraduate Medical School we launched an internal investigation. While no individuals were found culpable, behaviours were uncovered that fell short of our high professional expectations.

“We recognise that we must do better. I am determined that we work in a School that promotes treating each other with kindness, with dignity, and with respect. I speak for all senior colleagues in the School and College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Science when I say that I am sorry that any of our staff or students have been subjected to unwelcome, unacceptable behaviour and distressing incidents.

“An action plan is being taken forward to review and where necessary improve the working environment for all our staff and students.”

The university’s action plan includes training for staff and an external team developing a progressive and inclusive culture. The school will also relaunch its equality, diversity and inclusion committee.

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “The University of Glasgow condemns discrimination of any kind and is committed to promoting equality and diversity across its community and campus.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• ‘It’s from the top down’: Inside Glasgow Uni Medical School’s ‘culture of misogyny’

Glasgow Uni is ‘failing its students’ by not tackling Medical School culture, senior lecturer says

Glasgow Medical School head to leave his job amid uni investigation into his conduct