July 23, 2021, by School of Medicine

30 at 30: 30 and 50 years of exceptional contribution

Professor Dame Jessica Corner smiling

Just over five years ago I found my way to the University of Nottingham, attracted by knowing great friends and nurse colleagues at the university. I am honoured to hold a chair with the School of Health Sciences and I hope too my friends and colleagues from the School of Medicine see me as an honorary colleague. As a nurse who has spent a long career working in interdisciplinary teams, my natural home has been the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences.  It is a major landmark to be celebrating 50 years of Medicine and 30 years of Nursing at the University of Nottingham. 

Professor Dame Jessica Corner when she was a young nurseWhen I chose to study nursing, over 40 years ago, there were only a handful of academic centres where it was possible to train as nurse through a university degree. Choosing this route was transformational for me and set me on a career pathway combining research with a clinical career as a nurse. It was decades later that this route became a legal requirement for professional qualification. For me, it has been an extraordinary journey that has proffered opportunities I could never have imagined. In the succeeding years, a network of strong academic centres emerged and these have provided important developments in knowledge and thought leadership for our profession as well as developing many significant leaders in health care. This university has, throughout, been one of those outstanding academic centres, giving an extraordinary opportunity to many thousands of nurses and doctors who have been through our doors. We are proud to celebrate some world-renowned figures among our alumni community as well as the contribution made by all who have graduated from this special place. 

Over the years I have worked to champion the importance and value of research-led and academic preparation as a nurse. This gives vital skills that add value to caring in every context; critical analysis, the ability to ask questions about what you see in front of you, how to draw insights from evidence and apply them to decision-making in practice.  The skills and know-how to develop evidence from research to improve care and address major health needs and challenges all stem from this preparation. Crucially, working in interdisciplinary teams to solve problems through research are today the main way we take forward research. These will all have been part of the Nottingham preparation and, of course, these skills can be applied to many roles within health care and beyond. 

For the last five years, it has been such a privilege to work as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Exchange. My role is to support and facilitate colleagues from every discipline – English and Philosophy to Physics, Education to Veterinary Medicine and Biosciences. Every day I am inspired by the extraordinary work that is going on across this great university, behind every door and every virtual room. 

Dino the dinosaur reinforces social distancing messaging as Dr Ruth Griffin meets Dame JessicaLast year, as the pandemic was gathering momentum and we were readying ourselves for the storm ahead (without having any idea what was about to unfold) I was asked to lead, with Professor John Atherton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, our response as a university to our partners. Over a three-month period we received more than 400 requests for help and gathered a team to co-ordinate it all. During that time together we found space across the faculty to be used by our NHS partners for storing essential equipment as it was delivered and for staff to rest on breaks and for training; we found PPE and other supplies, set up our own SARS-COV2 testing laboratory, we accommodated NHS colleagues who couldn’t go home during the peak weeks, provided PCR machines for the Lighthouse Labs and, crucially, saw many students from Medicine and Health Science volunteer to assist, and graduated finalists early to work in clinical roles. Colleagues from Engineering and Biosciences manufactured PPE and our own recipe sanitiser. The list of contributions is endless. Most significant has been the work of clinical colleagues from Medicine and Health Sciences and Cripps Health Centre who have worked continuously on the front-line caring for people with Covid-19, co-ordinating research trials into treatments and vaccines and underpinning science into the virus. At the same time these colleagues have continued to provide an education to our students in the strange virtual world we have found ourselves inhabiting. It has been extraordinary and inspiring to see what has been contributed and achieved. I pay tribute here to all in Medicine, Health and Life Sciences for your efforts over the last year. Nottingham, and indeed the world, is indebted to you. Thank you. 

By Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Professor of Cancer and Supportive Care

Posted in 30 Years of NursingAlumniNursing