Alumni Services

Derek Bruce

Dr Derek Bruce talks to us about moving to the United States after graduating in medicine and how his Scottish charm and accent helped his career along the way.


Derek Bruce

Degree Course


Year of Graduation


Dr Derek Bruce

Your time at the University

I grew up in Dunfermline with an interest in medicine. Edinburgh was the obvious choice and I had an excellent 6 years, including a good social life and rugby. It was an excellent preparation for clinical practise. I spent a summer as a junior intern in the USA and this led to my going there after graduation.

1966 was a very difficult time for young professionals in Britain, few jobs, poor reimbursement, and no research money. Around half my class mates left the UK after graduation and when I arrived in the USA I realised what an excellent training I had received in Edinburgh.

Having a soft Scottish accent served me well in the USA as I could say exactly the same as my colleagues but the audience thought it sounded better!

Dr Derek Bruce

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I have now partially retired as Professor of Neurosurgery and Paediatrics at George Washington School of Medicine and Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC. As a result of my Edinburgh education and some Scottish “blarney” I went to the University of Pennsylvania to train in neurosurgery. It was an excellent time with a lot of research money available. I stayed at the University of Pennsylvania for 10 years and became tenured Professor of Neurosurgery and Paediatrics. I then moved to Dallas, Texas and became clinical Professor of Neurosurgery and Paediatrics at the University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and finally ended my career in Washington DC. 

My good Scottish, Edinburgh University education contributed to my productivity and I have published over 150 peer reviewed journal articles and a similar number of textbook chapters.

Having a soft Scottish accent served me well in the USA as I could say exactly the same as my colleagues but the audience thought it sounded better! I have lectured and operated in many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. The only major country I have not been visiting professor in is Scotland.  I suppose it is hard to be profit in one’s own country.

Alumni wisdom

Maximise what you can receive from your time at university, both academically and socially.  Also be aware that all education is not equal and that you may not be aware of your potential until leaving the University setting.  Always believe that you have the basis for success in any setting and against any competition thanks to your University of Edinburgh education superimposed on your own ability.