Dr Gavin Francis talks to us about his international Medical career and how his love of reading encouraged him to write.
|BSc Hons Neuroscience, MBChB
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
I chose Edinburgh because as a teenager I used to visit my brother who was studying there. He had a fairly squalid flat on Forrest Road, but at 16, that flat seemed to me the height of glamour. Also, the medical school in Edinburgh had a fabulous reputation, and I loved being close to the sea, the hills and the woods - Edinburgh has all of those in spades.
I used to pay my way working as a barman in Sandy Bell’s pub on Tuesdays and Saturday evenings, and my summer holidays I spent up in the Dissection Room of the Anatomy Department, prosecting cadavers.
With regards to becoming an author, I've always been a voracious and omnivorous reader, and so it was natural for me to want to write the kind of book that I'd most want to read.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
Through its links with Europe and Erasmus, and with its Enlightenment history, Edinburgh is a pretty international place. I’m a GP now back in Edinburgh’s city centre, and have also published three books. When I’m writing I work in the National Library on George IV Bridge - so it looks like I didn’t get very far! But Medicine is a wonderfully portable trade – for the first ten years after I qualified I used it as a passport to work anywhere in the world. I’ve taken jobs in the Arctic and Antarctic, Africa and India, and all across the British Isles.
With regards to becoming an author, I've always been a voracious and omnivorous reader, and so it was natural for me to want to write the kind of book that I'd most want to read. My first was ‘True North - Travels in Arctic Europe’ (Polygon, 2008) and described a journey around the European Arctic, from Shetland north through the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and Lapland. It examined the historical and cultural background of Europeans' exploration of their own northern limits. My second was ‘Empire Antarctica’ (Chatto & Windus, 2012) which is an account of the year I spent as the doctor on a remote Antarctic research station. The landscape was elemental: just ice, light and sky, but for a colony of emperor penguins, and the book examines what it's like to live in such an otherworldly place, as well as the lives of the penguins through the seasons. It was Book of the Year in the Scottish Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the Costa, Ondaatje, Saltire and Banff prizes.
My third book is ‘Adventures in Human Being’ (Profile Books, 2015) which takes the body as a landscape - the most intimate landscape of all, and looks at it from philosophical, artistic, literary as well as clinical perspectives. It's just out in the UK, and will be translated into eight languages this year.
Get out of Edinburgh at least three times a semester and explore Scotland beyond the city bypass.
Published: July 2015