Past event highlights
Some highlights from our past events at the Usher Institute.
Our flagship lecture programme, we have had the privilege to welcome leading academics from across the world to deliver our annual lectures.
Dr Fiona Godlee
A medical doctor, editor, writer and campaigner
Why the climate crisis is a health crisis…and what we can do about it
The world is heating up, and scientists estimate that, unless we can rapidly reduce carbon emissions, we are only 10-15 years from tipping into catastrophic climate change. Our health is already being directly damaged by air pollution from burning fossil fuels, and global heating is threatening our health and lives due to damaging climatic, environmental, economic, social and geopolitical instability. It is up to each and all of us to respond to this current and present threat to our own health and our children’s future. It’s going to be a huge challenge but there is much that we can and must do. In this lecture, Dr Fiona Godlee will share the climate science and the threats to health, and explore the actions we can all take to respond to this climate and health crisis.
Professor Sir Martin Landray
Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology University of Oxford and Co-Chief Investigator for the RECOVERY trial
Lessons from and opportunities after the RECOVERY trial
Dr Jeannie Shoveller
Vice President, Research and Innovation, IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Canada and Chair of Governing Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Health sciences in a changing world: Where to from here?
A pandemic of COVID-19 infection and associated health, social and economic sequelae, coincident with worldwide calls for social justice, equity and diversity – 2020 indeed offers a changing world for the health sciences. As health scientists grapple with unprecedented challenges in the face of rapidly evolving structural and operational contexts, many also are lifting their heads to consider the broader horizon and asking “where to from here?” As the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated, science, particularly the health sciences, can unite or divide society. Fault lines also are being exposed within the scientific community itself, as an underlying competitive ethos continues to bubble – whether in the search for a “Thousand Talents” or the push towards “Endless Frontiers”. The capacity for a wide range of science, including social sciences and humanities scholarship, to also strengthen collaboration and to foster trust within and across societies also requires examination, if we are to realize the potential benefits of health sciences in an equitable and just manner. Professor Shoveller will discuss potential future directions, including efforts to level the scientific playing field and initiatives that recognize equity issues as integral to excellence in scientific pursuits – offering perspectives of where we might go from here and potential implications for transforming health in society.
Dr Victor Dzau
President of the US National Academy of Medicine
Emerging biomedical science & technology: A brave new world
Science and technology are moving at an extremely rapid pace and paving the way for exciting new developments in health and medicine. Already, we are seeing substantial progress in the fields of biomedicine and biotechnology; engineering and nanotechnology; and digital technology, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), to name just a few. We are witnessing medical breakthroughs in areas of genetic engineering, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, immuno-cancer therapy, precision medicine, big data and analytics and artificial intelligence. These advances in science and technology will transform all aspects of health and healthcare: from disease treatment to cure to early detection and prevention with the emergence of precision public health. The future healthcare delivery will enable a seamless continuum of care, change the way care is delivered, when care is delivered, where care is delivered and who care is delivered by. Advances such as these will provide an armamentarium of tools that can revolutionise healthcare and health to be more connected, precise, democratised and people centered with better outcomes and improved population health. However, new innovations and technologies carry risks and raise important questions for society related to cost, equity, ethics, regulation, and more. For example, last November, a scientist from China revealed that as a result of his research, twins were born whose embryonic genomes had been edited. The scientist was widely condemned by the global scientific community for violating long-standing scientific principles and ethical norms. Importantly, this surprising news demonstrates the urgency to develop international consensus around acceptable use of human genome editing technologies. In particular, potential clinical applications of heritable genome editing raise many complicated issues around ethics, equity and fairness, and societal acceptance. There is a critical need to address access and affordability, social and ethical issues of new technologies as well as concerns that they will increase health care costs and impact the healthcare workforce. Certain jobs will be replaced while others will be transformed by new technologies such as AI. Finally, there is an urgent need to address data ownership, privacy, sharing and cybersecurity concerns. These issues must be dealt with collectively and effectively in order to realise the full potential of science and innovation. Professor Dzau will discuss the potential of innovation and technology on the future of health and medicine, and the implications for society.
Victor Dzau is currently the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine at Duke University, North Carolina, and also President of the US National Academy of Medicine. He has been the Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and served as Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as well as Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Stanford University.
Professor Chris Whitty CB FMedSci
Chief Scientific Adviser, UK Department of Health and Social Care
Global health in the next two decades: the good, the bad and the unknowable
Global health is going through a process of substantial and largely irreversible change. A combination of economic development and medical science as led to impressive falls in child mortality, which are continuing. Many, although not all, of the infectious diseases which dominated human health are in rapid retreat although the risk of resurgence and of epidemics remains; this includes many of the infection-driven cancers. Outside Africa fertility is reaching replacement levels and the demographic transition is stabilising; the implications of the changed population structure on health are beginning to be felt. Whilst improving cardiovascular disease has been arguably the greatest public health triumph of the last two decades in wealthier countries, the environmental, behavioural and genetic factors for a rapid rise in cardiovascular disease and diabetes in Asia, Latin America and Africa are in place. Most of what has been learned about disease prevention, but only some of what has been learned about treatment, can be transferred from high-income to lower-income settings, but the gap is narrowing. The current structure of global health and the problems which research needs to tackle will look very different in two decades, and the opportunities for learning flowing south-north will be considerable. The Usher Institute Annual Lecture will look at global health trends over the next 20 years, and what we can do to improve them.
Professor Chris Whitty is Chief Scientific Adviser for the UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care, with overall responsibility for scientific advice for policy and the department’s research and development, including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). In addition he holds posts as Professor of Public and International Health at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Consultant Physician in acute medicine and infectious diseases at University College London Hospitals and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Gresham Professor of Physic at Gresham College. A clinical epidemiologist by background, he has worked as a clinician and in research in several countries in Africa and Asia.
He will be introduced by The Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Peter Mathieson.
Dr David Blumenthal
Professor of Medicine, Harvard University, President of the Commonwealth Fund
Managing High-Need High-Cost Patients: A Universal Challenge
High-need, high-cost patients account for a disproportionate share of health care spending, and the complex care they need can be fraught with quality and safety issues. Efforts to address quality and cost challenges in the health care system as a whole must focus on improving care for this population. Dr Blumenthal’s talk discussed these patients’ distinct needs, and highlight opportunities for both policymakers and health system leaders to better manage their care.
Professor John Ioannidis
Professor of Medicine, and of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University
Inaugural Usher Institute Annual Lecture from the Chair of the Usher Institute Scientific Advisory Board, and formal launch of the Usher Institute.
Distinguished Speakers Seminar Series
The Distinguished Speakers Seminar series at the Usher Institute is our flagship seminar series, with invited speakers.
Previous seminars in the series:
Don’t take it personally: careful causal analysis of claims for personalised medicine is long overdue - Professor Stephen Senn, Head of Unit, Competence Centre for Methodology and Statistics, Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), Luxembourg; May 2018
Balancing personalised and population health approaches to the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) - Professor Nick Wareham, Director MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge; January 2018
Realistic Health: Applying the Principles of the Realistic Medicine Approach to Improve the Health of the Public - Dr Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer to the Scottish Government; March 2017
Linksage of 'Big Data' in Population Health Research: panacea? - Professor Jill Pell, Henry Mechan Professor of Public Health and Director of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow; January 2017
Guest speaker seminars
We frequently welcome guest speakers to the Usher Institute across a wide variety of disciplines and from around the world.
Feb 2020 - The Future of Global Health - Legal Determinants
We were delighted to host Professors and Lancet Commission Report Co-Chairs Lawrence O. Gostin and John T. Monahan from Georgetown University, USA as we explore the Commission Report, The Legal Determinants of Health: Harnessing the Power of Law for Global Health and Sustainable Development.
A panel discussion followed the keynote presentation, including University of Edinburgh's Dr Mark Hellowell, Chancellor's Fellow Nayha Sethi, and Research Fellow Marlee Tichenor.
The event, opened by The Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Peter Mathieson, was co-hosted by the Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh, the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and Georgetown University.