Professor of Orthopaedic and Tropical Surgery and Consultant Orthopaedic and Spine Surgeon
Dorraine Ross was a Canadian concert pianist who decided to give it all up in the 1960s and go to Africa to serve the poor in a remote mission hospital - 2 hours from the nearest road. I never saw her without a smile on her face and whenever she opened her mouth it was to offer a word of support or encouragement to others. She lived for others and for the patients. She oversaw personnel issues and building projects, and ran the theatres in the mission hospital like clockwork. Everything was always in place and clean. I met Dorraine when I visited the hospital in 1992. She inspired me to get involved with medical care of the world's most needy, and she has continued to inspire me ever since.
Dame Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Scotland, who is well known for discovering the first radio pulsars during her PhD. Despite being the first to observe and precisely analyse the pulsars, she was excluded from the Nobel Prize in Physics, which was won for this discovery. Dame Bell Burnell is an inspiration to me - not only because of her great contributions to astronomy, but also because she dared to pursue physics at a time when society was very against her deviating from her 'role'. She is a role model to many young (female) scientists and was a key driving force for the implementation of the Athena Swan programme.
Associate Professor and NIHR Clinician Scientist
An inspiring woman in the recent UK clinical sciences is Dame Sally Davies. Currently Chief Medical Officer for England, she was a key figure in the designing of what I believe is a unique set up for funding clinical research: the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The NIHR is mainly funded by the National Health Service (NHS), and its overarching aim is to improve patient care (efficiency and safety) as provided within the UK national healthcare system.
Since its early days more than 10 years ago, and until very recently when she stepped down from her senior role in NIHR, Dame Sally Davies was a key figure in the dissemination of a revolutionary idea that has made it possible for the NIHR to change the lives of thousands of researchers and potentially millions of people in the UK: the money invested in improving NHS care does (by reducing NHS costs and/or attracting other funding sources) actually result in savings rather than expenses. The consequence of this is a greater focus on patient-centered as well as on improved healthcare delivery research. This 'simple' idea is easy to write in paper, but setting this seed in the minds of politicians and commissioners must have been a complex task, which Sally Davies managed to achieve with her unique talent and convincing ideas. Her courage and determination inspired me to pursue a career in academia, and to be a patient advocate in all my research.
'If your tool is a hammer, you'll see every problem as a nail'
- African proverb, author unknown -
My mother, Patricia Dzimbiri, has a great love for proverbs. Her favourite, above, reminds me of why she is my biggest inspiration; her life has been characterised by a single-minded determination to help others.
Born in a small village in Malawi, she went on to fight for democracy for her country. She even held midnight rallies in support of democracy whilst she was pregnant with me, her 5th child. Becoming First Lady to Malawi's first democratically elected president didn't engender complacency. Instead, she founded a charity which focused on female empowerment, raising millions of dollars to help women start businesses or combat inequality and sexual violence.
Now in her 50s, she is an MP in the constituency of her birth and can always be relied upon, hammer at the ready, to tackle some of the biggest social and political issues facing her constituents.
Head of Department and Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedics
Born in 1933, Nina Simone was the sixth child of a preacher who was a singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist. Her musical style fused jazz, gospel and pop with classical music particularly JS Bach. For Sinnerman, for Don't Let me be Misunderstood and for Feeling Good. Her music always cheers me up.
NDORMS Equality and Diversity Advisor
Bella, my daughter. She is about to turn 3. This little woman is an every day inspiration to me. I am trying to raise a strong girl (sometimes so strong I would need a strong drink ☺). I want her to be happy, I would like to see her in pink, green, purple, blue; as a scientist, an artist, an IT worker, a ballerina, a firefighter...I want ALL the options for her, I want HER TO CHOOSE. I would like her to be BRAVE, not perfect. I would like her to be in love with a man, or a woman, whoever makes her happy. I don't want her to feel for one second, she is less because the gender she was born with. She truly inspires my every day work.
Patrick Garfjeld Roberts
Vicky Jewson is a young female screenwriter and director. She's raising big budgets for her own scripts, and directing proper action flicks with strong female leads who'd go toe-to-toe with James Bond, John McClane and Alan Schaefer. They are exactly the sort of characters I want my daughter to see on screen, as a relief from yet another Disney princess...
Petra Kvitová is one of the women who inspire me. She is a Czech tennis player and a two-times Wimbledon champion (2011 and 2014). I have been following Petra for a few years and what I like about her is her fearlessness and her attitude towards victory and defeat. Back in 2014 during the "Strong is Beautiful" campaign, Petra said: "Strong is recognising the champion inside you before the world has even seen the contender"... I embrace this all the way! Happy International Women's Day!
University Research Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Rheumatology
My namesake Fiona watt is one of the best known female scientists in the UK. She is a very warm, enthusiastic person, who I think is a fantastic role model for women in science. Whilst being an international leader in the field of regenerative medicine and stem cells, she also has a spouse and 3 kids. She is recognised for highlighting, particularly through a series of articles whilst editor in Journal of Cell Science the challenges experienced by women in science. "You only live once, so it's really important to enjoy the work you are doing" she says. Her prior links with both Oxford and the Kennedy make for some frequent mix-ups with me, for which I will be eternally flattered!
I first learned about Sabina Spielrein from David Cronenberg's screen adaptation of her biography called 'A Dangerous Method' and starring Keira Knightley. Spielrein, a Russian Jewish psychologist was one of the leading minds who established the field of psychoanalysis. Her ideas linking psychology and Darwin's evolutionary theory were much ahead of her time, her influence on works of Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung has only been recently recognised. After her initial training and work in Europe, Spielrein returned to Soviet Russia to establish the entire field of child psychology there. She and her family tragically died in Holocaust. Spielrein's legacy and impact on modern psychology is being rediscovered now and her life and work show us how despite gender and ethnic discrimination, mental health problems, difficult family situation and political obstacle she could still become one of the most original, influential out-of-the-box thinkers in the history of science.
Technical Services Manager
When I was younger, much younger than today, my grandmother gave me a book about an inspirational woman which helped me shape an incredibly respectful attitude toward women and their achievements. Although we didn't think so, it was very much a man's world in those days. This clever and gifted lady was born in Poland in 1867 in very modest surroundings. Having to go to work after the death of her mother, she studied part time to eventually become a teacher. She then moved to Paris to study physics and mathematics at university where she met her husband. Working on the theory that rays could possibly pass through solid matter, she worked tirelessly to the detriment of her health (and her husband's), handling treacherous materials such as uranium to eventually discover, I believe, the element of radium.
The rest is history and the efforts of her dedicated and hard work has benefited the scientific and medical worlds up to her death in 1934, and way beyond. She received a doctorate in Physics, won two Nobel prizes and jointly developed the x-ray machine which was instrumental in locating shrapnel in wounded soldiers during the First World War.
I remember the words of an old musician friend who, before we went on stage to play in our band said, "You should always be a little nervous. If not, you think you know everything and therefore have nothing left to learn". The woman I have written about here was quoted to say, "Have no fear of perfection; you'll never reach it", which has a similar message. Always strive to do better. For me, her story induced and commanded not only inspiration but admiration and respect. The lady's name of course was Marie Curie. I'll never forget that book and always be thankful to Granny for giving it to me.
Kirsti Mills, my mother. There are numerous women that I cite as an inspiration in my life, but as cliché as it may sound; I am inspired most by my mother, Kirsti. Not only has her personal choices in my upbringing allowed me the best opportunity to succeed and choose my preferred career path in further education and beyond, the circumstances beyond her control has inadvertently shaped my career and outlook on life. My mother has Crohn's Disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the bowel, and her ability cope and take this disease in her stride is truly inspirational, and something everyone could learn from. It is also no doubt as to why my undergraduate dissertation was concerning murine models of inflammatory bowel disease, and why I am currently studying for a PhD in the topic of asthma and viral infections, with the aim of helping people who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases like my mother in the future.
Professor Helen Muir, CBE 20th August 1920 - 28th November 2005
Biochemist, former director of the Kennedy Institute
Not only was she highly successful in a male-dominated profession conducting pioneering research into the disease process of osteoarthritis. Helen Muir was also a charismatic personality who understood to fruitfully combine her scientific interests with her passion for horse hunting which provided her with material for her research.
Her fascination for the natural world was seeded on the foothills of the outer Himalayas in India, where she spent most of her childhood, educated solely by her mother. Back in Europe, she attended an independent all girls boarding school, tracing its history back to Charles Darwin's former home in Downe, Kent, before studying at Somerville College. Here it was another inspirational Oxford woman, her tutor Dorothy Hodgkin, who convinced her to leave her original intentions of studying medicine in favor of chemistry.
Later, when she directed the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, its international reputation for teaching and research developed under her leadership and, as stated on the institute's website, much of our current understanding of cartilage biochemistry was generated paving the way for today's osteoarthritis research.
Helen Muir was the first woman to service on the Medical Research Council and the first female biochemist to serve as a trustee of the Wellcome Trust, which in his archives holds a portrait of her painted by Miranda Legard.
At the Wellcome Trust you can watch a copy of the Channel 4 documentary "Sex and the Scientist", which was aired in 1996 and also features Alice Stewart and Dame Mary Cartwright.