Wolfson Building. Credit: Creative Commons

Head of Glasgow medical school to be under bullying investigation

By Luke Chafer

The Glasgow Guardian speaks to medical students about the culture of bullying within their school.

Head of undergraduate medicine at the University of Glasgow, Professor John Paul Leach, is being investigated by the University, believed to be related to bullying and discrimination. Professor Leach is also a consultant neurologist at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. Students spoken to by The Glasgow Guardian indicated that the approach of Professor (‘JP’) Leach was indicative of a more insidious culture of sexism and bullying within Glasgow’s medical school.

Last year, a number of medical students spoke to The Glasgow Guardian about their experiences of bullying in the medical school. One student, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I would rather not put my name to this comment as I have seen already how the medical school mark out their ‘problem students’ and make sure to cause issues for them. I had a meeting with my head of year about attendance, after a few days off of placement for illness.

“In our meeting, I was asked about mental health. I admitted I was extremely stressed about my studies. The conversation immediately moved on. It felt very tick-box. For the next ten minutes, I was essentially threatened with failing my placement, on repeat, and was told that I now had a ‘record’ with the medical school, as I had been ‘flagged’ to them I needed to tread very carefully. I had never experienced such a weird, intentionally intimidating conversation before.”

Ex-Editor-in-Chief, Lucy Dunn, recently graduated from medicine. She told The Glasgow Guardian: “During my time as Editor, I heard a number of stories about students’ treatment in the medical school. Medical students are inherently curious by nature, but from what I was hearing, it was as though when anyone questioned something – whether about the structure of the course, or treatment on placement – they appeared to be marked out as a ‘troublemaker’. Of course, you would hope this type of thinking would never be routinely employed in any kind of educational setting – but when you hear many, many stories from such a range of people, and particularly the types that are less inclined to cause a fuss, it’s hard to look past the pattern that emerges.

“I loved my time at Glasgow University, and at the medical school, and I’m very proud to have studied there. It’s one of the best in the UK, and as such should hold itself to the highest possible standards. Almost all the staff I’ve met have been kind, helpful, caring and also very inspiring, and I don’t believe any of them went into their jobs with the intention of making life difficult for students.

“But clearly, there is a large part of the medical student body that has found issue with their treatment at certain parts of the course. Students feel frustrated when they feel there is minimal capacity for open dialogue, and I can imagine staff feel frustrated when they hear the resultant complaints. So if the University of Glasgow strives to produce ‘World Changers’, then I would hope that it would simultaneously strive to improve how it deals with student complaints, to deal with them constructively, and perhaps better appreciate that you can’t change the world without first acknowledging the weaknesses in the system.”

The University of Glasgow spokesperson said: “The University of Glasgow condemns discrimination of any kind and is committed to promoting equality and diversity across its community and campus.

“The University treats all complaints seriously and investigates them appropriately, but we do not comment on individual cases.”


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