Welcome to the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences...
The Department was established in 1937 following a generous endowment by Lord Nuffield, and since then, four consecutive Nuffield Professors of Surgery have left their various marks, academically and clinically. In October 2008, I had the immense privilege of becoming the fifth Nuffield Professor of Surgery at Oxford, to take over with trepidation one of the few remaining academic bastions of Surgery in the UK. Having founded previously the Academic Urology Unit, and headed consecutively the Division of Clinical Sciences and the Section of Oncology at the University of Sheffield, I became acquainted over the years with the formidable challenges awaiting academic surgery in the UK, if it were to survive and thrive in the future. It was clear that in order to re-establish the role of academic surgery in modern academia, a number of changes were necessary to respond to the continuing demands and expectations from clinical academics in the UK, and to bring the Department to a modern internationally competitive platform of basic, translational and clinical research excellence. Furthermore, the interface between the academic and NHS departments of surgery needed to be strengthened, in order to achieve a single vision for Surgery in Oxford. The configuration of surgery can be complex in any large teaching institution with University and NHS affiliation, as it is run in the UK. Ideally, surgery in such institutions should have a cohesive mix of [a] high quality clinicians engaged in cutting edge surgical practice, innovation and technological advances, [b] clinical researchers who will lead large evaluation programmes of new technologies and techniques with comprehensive multidisciplinary teams, providing solid evidence to guide practice; and [c] surgeon scientists/group leaders trained in focused areas of surgery and laboratory sciences, embedded with high quality scientists in world-leading research institutes. This is our vision for Oxford. In due course, this configuration will optimise the capability of Oxford Surgery to ‘close the loop’, from bench to the bedside, improve outcomes for our patients, and become an attractive place for young people to develop, learn, train and eventually populate other institutions with world leaders in the field.
The evolution of the Department is ongoing, recently illustrated by our new ‘brand’, as we become today the ‘Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences’, reflecting our true multidisciplinary dimension and integrating surgical practice with cutting-edge science. Some of our other less visible changes include the establishment of a cohesive administrative structure, based on common academic tasks with robust infrastructure support, and involvement of Department members at all grades. Teaching is a major component of our activity, encompassing undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students in all surgical disciplines. A new Masters degree course in ‘Surgical Science and Practice’ is being set up, and will be inaugurated in October 2011. This new activity should attract surgeons in training from the UK and elsewhere. The course is targeted at all trainees, irrespective of their academic ambitions, and will consist of a variety of modules. Full details will be advertised on this website in due course.
For our research activities, we are developing a rich environment based on inter-disciplinary work with world-class researchers and resources at Oxford. For instance, we are locating young researchers and clinical academic trainees in the best and most suitable institutes, to match their area of interest, and allow them to be mentored and fostered jointly by senior clinical academics and senior scientists. Whilst this may be perceived as ‘fragmentation’ of departmental members by some, it responds to the reality that it is no longer possible for any single clinical academic department to house comprehensive research platforms to study disease from genetic predisposition to its treatment using the latest technology. Embedding our young academic surgeons in vibrant research institutes, and appointing jointly scientists to key areas of research such as cell and molecular biology dedicated to specific themes and disease processes will improve the quality of our research considerably. It will also allow surgical trainees to secure substantial recognition and funding for clinician scientist programmes.
I am enormously indebted to every member of the Department for their engagement, dedication and hard work to achieve our potential, and for embracing an exciting vision for academic surgery at Oxford. I am also grateful to other University and ORHT departments for all their help and willingness to collaborate and share their expertise and facilities, and for welcoming our approaches.
The future is bright for surgery at Oxford, and I hope that over the years, we will continue to train, educate and contribute to improving the practice and science of surgery and its related disciplines, and to foster highly skilled and dedicated surgeons and surgeon scientists for the UK and elsewhere.
Freddie C. Hamdy MA MD FRCS FRCSEd(Urol) FMedSci
Head, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences