Our Annual Public Lectures

Our Public Lectures are named after Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the USA and to be placed on the UK's medical register. Elizabeth was born in Bristol in 1821 and returned to the UK in 1859 to lecture at a social sciences congress held on the site now occupied by the Wills Memorial Building.

Members of the public are especially welcome to our lectures, which aim to revive the spirit of Elizabeth Blackwell’s Penny Lectures, designed to educate and to encourage new thinking, ideas and debate. Below we share our previous public lectures to give a flavour of the breadth of topics we have covered over the years.

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Professor Patricia Kingori 10th annual public lecture (22 January 2024) - Facts, Fakes, Society and Health

We were delighted to welcome University of Oxford’s Professor Patricia Kingori for our tenth annual public lecture. Patricia leads a team of researchers exploring concerns around fakes, fabrications and falsehoods in Global Health. She shared her important work into how people, places and processes are involved in the complexities of falsehoods. Through a focus on her global health research she brought the topic to life, providing new insights and stimulating engaging discussion. 

More on Patricia Kingori's lecture

Professor Kristie Ebi 9th annual public lecture (3 November 2022) - Climate Changes Health

Kristie Ebi is Professor in the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington. She has been conducting research and practice on the health risks of climate variability and change for nearly 25 years

Kristie gave a fascinating and thought-provoking talk on the health risks of climate variability and climate change. Looking forward, we need to urgently invest in adaptation and mitigation to reduce current impacts and future risks in an increasingly warming world.

More on Professor Kristie Ebi's lecture, including presentation slides

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert 8th annual public lecture (6 October 2021) - Developing the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

We were delighted to welcome Dame Sarah Gilbert is Professor of Vaccinology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford for our 8th public lecture. She is the Oxford Project Leader for ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the leading UK coronavirus vaccine.

In her talk, Dame Sarah took us on a journey from the moment she first heard about a serious new illness affecting people in China, to her team designing a successful COVID-19 vaccine which would save the lives of millions of people. We heard the behind-the-scenes story of how the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine - both cheaper and easier to distribute than some other vaccines - was developed and approved at a pace, while the public waited eagerly for science to find a way out of this major global health challenge.
More on Dame Sarah Gilbert's public lecture

Professor Dame Sue Hill 7th annual public lecture (30 November 2020) - Genomics and Healthcare - New Opportunities


Professor Dame Sue Hill joined us virtually for our 6th annual Elizabeth Blackwell Public Lecture on 30 November 2020. Dame Sue is Chief Scientific Officer for NHS England and Senior Responsible Officer for Genomics in NHS England and NHS Improvement.

In her talk she discussed the strides being made to embed genomics into the NHS in England through the NHS Genomic Medicine Service, the power and potential of personalised medicine and how genomics is already having a positive impact on the lives of patients and their families.

Dame Sue highlighted the current challenges for healthcare systems (including affordability, ageing populations, equity of access, meeting individual’s needs) and the possible future directions healthcare systems can take - at one end, a focus on improvements to population health, at the other increasing personalisation and management approaches.

More on Dame Sue Hill's public lecture, including presentation slides.

Dame Carol Black 6th annual public lecture (21 Oct 2019) - Working at Mental Health

Listen to an audio recording of the lecture

Professor Dame Carol Black was welcomed to Bristol for our 6th annual Elizabeth Blackwell Public Lecture on 21 October 2019. Dame Carol is expert government advisor on health and work, and an inspirational leader. She talked about her influential campaigns on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, to a packed audience at the Wills Memorial Building.

There is a high incidence of mental health issues in the UK workforce, across a broad range of dimensions and the determinants of health are largely social. Major barriers to this are poor mental health and wellbeing. The essential enablers of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, she explained, are: leadership, Board engagement and manager capability.

"Culture is key. There is a very strong relationship between line manager support and mental wellbeing.”

Find out about our work on Mental Health.

Parveen Kumar 5th annual public lecture (22 Oct 2018) - Health in a global world: my personal journey

For our 5th public lecture we welcomed Dame Professor Parveen Kumar to Bristol. Her talk was titled 'Health in a global world: my personal journey', a fascinating story from the foothills of Lahore through China and India, sharing her solitary (as one of very few women) educational experience to the top of the medical profession.

Dame Parveen reflected on how her personal experiences and turbulent events of the 20th century informed her choices and how the challenges of healthcare around the world changed in that time. She discussed the main global health problems facing the world today and what are likely to be the biggest threats in the future. Despite all the challenges, medical students and researchers were encouraged to be courageous and never loose enthusiasm.

Find out about our work on Global Public Health.

Dr Helen Stokes Lampard 4th annual public lecture (2 Nov 2017) - GPs on the Brink: Restoring the Joy to General Practice

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), and theatre maker Viv Gordon shared the stage for our 4th Annual Public Lecture.

The event unveiled and unpicked the realities of life as a GP in the current NHS, and the implications for GP’s mental wellbeing. Professor Stokes-Lampard, a GP in the Midlands and the RCGP Chair, talked about where the profession was currently and how we all have a part to play in restoring the joy to General Practice, while Viv Gordon shared readings from her new theatre work PreScribed (a Life Written for Me). Prescribed tells a witty and emotive story built from University of Bristol research into improving support for the estimated 13,000 UK GPs living with mental ill health.

Read the NIHR case study of the 'PreScribed' project, explaining how using theatre provides a novel way to raise awareness of doctors' mental health issues.

Dr Fiona Godlee 3rd annual public lecture (10 Oct 2016) - Too much medicine: why we need to push back the tide of medical excess

The third Elizabeth Blackwell Public Lecture was given by Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor-in-Chief of The BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal). Fiona qualified as a doctor in 1985 and is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. She has written on a broad range of issues, including the impact of environmental degradation on health, the future of the World Health Organization, the ethics of academic publication, and the problems of editorial peer review.

Too much medicine comes from a combination of overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Dr Fiona Godlee believes these are clearly linked. Overdiagnosis occurs when a diagnosis is “correct” according to current professional standards, but the diagnosis or associated treatment is unlikely to benefit the person. Both can co-exist with underdiagnosis and undertreatment.

Dame Anne Johnson 2nd annual public lecture (2 Nov 2015) - When pathogens meet people: controlling infectious disease epidemics

Professor Dame Anne Johnson

The second Elizabeth Blackwell Public Lecture was given by Dame Anne Johnson, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Chair of the Population Health Domain and Vice Dean for external affairs in the Faculty of Population Health at University College London.

Dame Anne Johnson talked about her research into HIV and sexually transmitted infections, in particular the successes and a failure of population interventions to control these diseases. She also discussed future innovations in controlling emerging infections, drawing on recent novel research with flu and Ebola.

Find out more about Prof Dame Anne Johnson’s work and publications.

Find out about our work on infection and immunity.

Dame Sally Davies inaugural public lecture (26 Nov 2014) - The drugs don’t work: the global threat of antibiotic resistance

The inaugural Elizabeth Blackwell Public Lecture was given by Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health. Dame Sally played a major role in the formation of the National Institute for Health Research and spoke out on many topics of major importance in public health. Dame Sally offered a stark warning about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance and its threat to future public health.

Find out more about our current work on antimicrobial resistance.

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Why Elizabeth Blackwell?

Discover why the Institute is named after Elizabeth Blackwell and find out about her fascinating life.

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