"What stands out about the past 25 years is that St George’s is an incredibly intimate place."
Published: 24 March 2020
Professor Iain Greenwood is celebrating his 25th year based at St George’s as well as his 100th research publication. Iain initially arrived at St George’s in 1994 and, aside from a year spent working in North America, has spent his time since teaching, researching and fundraising at our institution.
Iain discusses his reflections over the past 25 years, how his role and St George’s has developed over that time and an upcoming comedy night that he has helped organise in the Students’ Union bar in aid of the British Heart Foundation.
“I arrived at St George’s to take up a post-doctoral position on 4 January 1994. I did my PhD in Manchester on Smooth Muscles and St George’s was seen as one of the strongest places in the world to study Smooth Muscles and Ion Channels. To get offered a post-doctoral position in the old Department of Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology was exciting and frightening.
“I arrived as a post-doctoral researcher funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust to Dr William Large. The lab was my whole world, except for lunch times, when my fellow post-doc and a PhD student would go out to a café in Tooting where Sainsbury’s is now located - I still love lunchtimes.
“After the funding on that grant ran out I then had funding for a further 18 months from a new grant and was then awarded a Career Development Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust. I used that new independence to develop International collaborations involving time in labs in Montreal and, for the whole of 2001, in Reno, Nevada, USA. I started to stretch my legs more.
“When I came back St George’s had changed. In addition to the standard medical degree, we now had the joint faculty and the first intake of Biomedical Science students, which was closely followed by the first Graduate entry medical students. The foyer even had a shop in it.
“The next ten years saw considerable change at St George’s. It lost its departments and gained divisions, which were then replaced by institutes. The foyer expanded, outlets proliferated and the bar went from shabby booths to a modern functional space. We now have the shiny, bright, inclusive, multi-educational St George’s you see today. Staff are now less insular and the student body is more diverse. It is a very different world.
“I don’t tend to stop and reflect, I just go with the flow really, but what stands out about the past 25 years is that St George’s is an incredibly intimate place. No one is ever more than ten minutes away yet we encompass so much diversity: in our research, in educational programmes and student backgrounds.
“St George’s has produced a large number of truly world leading researchers and many innovative teaching practices. Our students punch above their weight in the sports arenas and our researchers do likewise.
“St George’s has allowed me the freedom to develop on numerous levels. I have been really lucky to have had amazing people in my research group who have made life so enjoyable. People who are full of life, full of vigour with a can-do attitude. I can honestly say I spend every day laughing. The people involved know who they are and they should all take a bow for creating such a brilliant atmosphere to work in.
“Much of the funding for my research has come from the British Heart Foundation (BHF). I met their area fundraiser, Karl Coppack, who convinced me to set up a fundraiser group here at St George’s. I wanted an event to kick things off and our bar had just been renovated. I suggested a comedy night to Karl and then was stumped, I know no funny people.
“Enter Short and Curly. Short and Curly are Paul (curly haired) and his wife Becky (short) who are a comedy duo who perform at the Edinburgh festival each year. Becky also suffers from arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. Someone at the BHF connected them with me and, using their contacts in the comedy world, we organised a comedy night in the bar last year that raised £3,600.