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My Cardiff

Professor Peter McGuffin

Professor Peter McGuffin, Honorary Fellow and former chair of psychological medicine at Cardiff University, recounts the department he helped build and its continuing success.

Professor Peter McGuffin

Professor Peter McGuffin

I spent nearly 12 fruitful years in Cardiff in the chair of psychological medicine before moving to the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London as director of an MRC Centre in 1998. I was just 37 when I was first appointed in Cardiff and neither my wife nor I had any Welsh connections. So the move with our three young children was a big adventure and, in some ways, a step into the unknown.

I soon discovered that the major part of the job running a university department was a role for which I had received no training whatsoever. Fortunately, I received tremendous support and guidance from the then Provost of the College of Medicine, Sir Bert Duthie, and colleagues both within the College of Medicine and "down the road" at the then University of Wales, Cardiff. This help compensated for my woeful managerial inexperience. I was lucky also to have my hand held figuratively and sometimes literally by my wife, Anne Farmer, who was appointed to a senior lectureship, and later to a chair, in the postgraduate medical education department.

Two of the great attractions for my coming to Cardiff in the late 1980s were its powerful Department of Medicine under Professor Reg Hall and its world-famous Department of Medical Genetics under Professor Peter Harper. My aim was to make psychological medicine the equal of those two departments in teaching and research excellence. Both Reg and Peter turned out to be terrific mentors in helping me set out to achieve this goal.

I was subsequently fortunate in the very high calibre of staff I managed to recruit and/or train. One of my earlier recruits to a new senior lectureship was Mike Owen who succeeded me as chair of psychological medicine when I moved to London. That was nearly 10 years ago and, looking back, I confess to having had occasional and somewhat narcissistic fears that, having spent 12 years building the department up, the whole thing would fall apart when I left.

But quite the opposite has happened. Under Mike's leadership it has gone from strength to strength. I take vicarious pride in what he has achieved and in reading the work of my former research Fellows and Ph.D. students who are still in Cardiff but are now internationally renowned professors.

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