Welcoming Simon Capewell as SSM’s new president


I am honoured to be chosen by the Society as your new President. I have been asked to introduce myself to those who do not already know me.
OK, so I will briefly address the obvious questions: Who am I? Why am I doing this? How do I propose to go about the task? And what do I hope to achieve?

I trained in respiratory and cardiovascular medicine, but increasingly wanted to work “upstream”. I first discovered public health as a medical civil servant in the Scottish Office then in academic jobs in Glasgow and Liverpool universities. My research has correspondingly moved from clinical through HSR and epidemiology to policy analysis (particularly food and cardiovascular disease prevention). And my declining abilities and white hair have ensured my recent election to various national committees (UK Faculty, UK Health Forum, NICE etc).

I have no idea why the committee invited me to take the role as chair elect/president elect. (They must have been really desperate). However, I was flattered to accept; and also slightly alarmed. It was quite daunting to be invited to follow in the steps of notables such as Sally Macintyre, Nick Black, Nick Mays and others. But it was too good an opportunity to miss. SSM was very supportive when I was starting out as an early career researcher. I thus felt it would be nice to give some-thing back; and I still love attending the meetings, and I love the SSM ethos: that multidisciplinary egalitarian striving for research quality.

I am trebly fortunate. Firstly, the recent Members’ Survey has clearly highlighted the Society’s current strengths and weaknesses, identified the logical steps to improve and modernise. The survey and AGMs have together given the Committee a democratic mandate to get on with it. My second good fortune is in following Martin White (who I thank warmly). Martin has already launched us smoothly in the right direction. (All I need to do is continue this momentum, and try not to screw up too visibly).
My third piece of good fortune is you, the members. Not least, the large group of early career researchers (ECRs) with energy, ability, purpose, good humour and good looks. It is therefore a particular pleasure to work with the ECRs’ committee to identify and address your needs and aspirations.
We are thus progressing smoothly down the path, and moving the Society gently from the original model (a small 1950s academic dining club) into a much larger 21st-century learned Society focused on the needs and interests of current and future members. With all of us implicitly working to promote the wider public health.

The committee are diverse, multi-talented and almost as beautiful as the ECRs. We are here to serve you, so we need your ongoing feedback, please. A bit of praise initially will go a long way. It will also motivate us to address the very real issues and challenges that members now face on a daily basis.
I hope to do something useful over the next two years. Including writing regular pieces in the SSM newsletter. If I do screw up, well don’t worry, the committee will soon be calling for nominations for the next President. You will thus have many more opportunities to make the Society even better.

Simon Capewell

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