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Women in Science

Lucy trained as a doctor and became interested in infectious diseases, particularly HIV. She has won a number of fellowships, including an MRC Clinical Scientist Fellowship, and is supported by the National Institute for Health Research to continue her research.

Portrait of Lucy DorrellBackground

at the time of the interview - March 2015

Lucy is a physician and an Associate Professor in the Nuffield Department of Medicine. She spends about 20% of her time doing clinical work. She is married and has two children, aged 18 and 13. Nationality/ethnic background: White British.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - March 2015

Lucy decided to study medicine partly because she was interested in how the body works. She went to medical school in Southampton between 1983 and 88, where she particularly enjoyed the 4th year doing basic science. She stayed at Southampton for her first ‘house jobs’, now called F1 and F2. Lucy moved to Newcastle for her next job, where she worked very long hours.

questions did start to come to me ... rather than treating people with heart attacks ... why aren’t we doing more to understand why they’ve got here in the first place and what we could do about that. So I suppose I did start thinking about medicine in that way and that made me think I want to go and do research next

Lucy’s next job was at registrar level. In 1991 she became interested in infectious diseases, particularly HIV. She also took post-graduate exams for MRCP. At that time there were relatively few woman consultants and Lucy felt there were sexist attitudes. As a female doctor she experienced discrimination from male doctors and female nurses. Her work with HIV made her want to do research because there was so much to explain. She wanted to find out why people became ill, with a view to preventing HIV, instead of just treating people. Lucy then moved to London and got a job as a Clinical Research Fellow, working in a lab, which was the beginning of her academic career. During that time Lucy did an MD. She also met her future husband and in 1996, when she was 30, they decided they wanted to have a baby. Lucy got an MRC Training Fellowship, to do a project based in Oxford. She took six months maternity leave before she started the Fellowship. She felt under pressure to return to work quickly, and returned full time. Some of her project involved living in West Africa, in Gambia.

In 2001 Lucy applied for an MRC Clinical Scientist Fellowship, to continue her research in the field of HIV, which she got. She delayed starting work on this project because again she was pregnant. She took five months maternity leave before starting that work and running her own lab. She had completed her specialist training so did one HIV clinic a week, working as a consultant with an honorary NHS contract, which she has done ever since. At the end of the Fellowship, in 2005, Lucy got a three year MRC Grant so that she could continue her work. When that came to an end, Lucy obtained funding from The National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre. She has a five year contract. She is also leading a grant funded European project.

Lucy loves her job, but feels she has to work many extra hours to succeed in her type of career. Her children are teenagers, so she says she a does have a bit more time for her work. She is sure that there is still gender discrimination, perhaps in a more subtle form than she experienced early in her career. Due to Athena SWAN this is talked about more openly, but Lucy argues that a culture change is still needed.