Professor Dame Sally Davies, the first woman to hold the post of Chief Medical Officer for England, has been recognised for her achievements with an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Plymouth.

Dame Sally, the most senior medical adviser in the land, accepted the honour at the University’s graduation ceremony for its Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry on Wednesday (17 July). During the ceremony at the Plymouth Guildhall, Dame Sally was presented with her scroll by the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Professor Jerry Roberts.

In her acceptance speech, she told the graduating students it was a "great honour” to receive the doctorate, and urged them to “have fun” in their careers. Dame Sally added:

"My advice to you is play to the values this wonderful medical school has given you, and think about what you can contribute and how you can deliver on your skills. Help the world, whether through patient care, research, or training.”

A globally renowned expert on Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR), Dame Sally has been at the forefront of international cooperation to recognise the threat it poses and has addressed organisations around the world, including the G8 and the United Nations.

During a 30-year career in the NHS, Dame Sally specialised in the treatment of diseases of the blood and bone marrow, becoming a consultant haematologist in 1985 at the Central Middlesex Hospital in Brent. She would later become the first UK medical practitioner to specialise in sickle cell disease.

In 2004, Dame Sally joined the Civil Service, and was soon appointed Director General of Research and Development for the NHS. She served as Chief Advisor to the Health Secretary, and was appointed Chief Medical Officer in 2011. During her tenure, she has led the government’s response to a number of health emergencies, including Ebola, pandemic flu, and the Novichok attacks.

Dame Sally has campaigned extensively on the subject of AMR, and was influential in the UN resolution in 2016. She subsequently became a co-convenor of the UN Interagency Group on AMR and helped establish the £265million Fleming Fund to develop laboratories and surveillance for AMR across the world. She has also served as chair of the 2013 AMR forum at the World Innovation Summit for Health and was, for three years, the chair of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on AMR.

Dame Sally’s impact on the domestic health landscape is no less profound. She updated the UK Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk alcohol guidelines, physical activity guidelines and produced advice for parents on social media and screen use. At the request of the Home Secretary, Dame Sally also reviewed the evidence on cannabis and her report paved the way for the introduction of the controlled use of medicinal cannabis.

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Dame Sally will step down from her position later this year, having been appointed by HRH The Queen as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

The University of Plymouth holds a separate graduation ceremony for its medical, dental and biomedical science graduates in July, because many are already in professional work by the time the main graduation ceremonies are staged on The Hoe in September.

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