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Dr Kim Holt’s healthy resistance

The whistleblower who found herself reviled and jobless after taking on the medical establishment over excessive workload confronting doctors

23 May, 2017

Dr Kim Holt

FROM whistleblower to becoming a kind of wonder woman. From being regarded as a pariah to end up on a pedestal.

Looking back, the eminent consultant Kim Holt – she was attached to Great Ormond Street Hospital – must have savoured all these emotions as she took on the medical establishment … and won.

She had stepped over the line when she blew the whistle on the excessive workload confronting doctors in her department in Haringey.

Instead of being praised for standing up for patients, she found herself reviled, jobless and caught up in a nasty four-year contest until 2011 when, incredibly, she was reinstated in her old job and promoted to the top Haringey doctor empowered with “safeguarding children”.

Imagine, she takes on all the bigwigs at Great Ormond Street Hospital – and they have all kinds of powerful friends in high political places, sticks to her beliefs, and ends up being given a top job.

There is a moral to this tale – and that is: if you see a wrong you have a kind of duty to oppose it.

Her fearless dedication to the principles governing doctors has won her one of the highest accolades – inclusion in a special publication, Medical Woman, supported by the Queen, celebrating 100 years of women in medicine. The editor, Jyoti Shah, a surgeon, appointed by the Medical Women’s Federation set up 100 years ago, wrote the stories of 80 women who shape the world of medicine today – women, whom she describes as being among some of the “brightest and most respected female medics”.

Jyoti said she spent a year writing up roughly 1,000 biographies for each doctor. “It was a labour of love, my husband saw me slumped over a computer every evening,” she said.

She wasn’t judgmental. She simply laid out the beliefs and struggles of the doctors. For each of them, in their own way, had to face conflicts they had never imagined would confront them.

After writing up their stories, she said she felt “humbled and inspired”.

Several among them occupy leading positions in London – among them, Wendy Savage, known as a staunch advocate of women’s rights in childbirth who, like Dr Holt, fell foul of the establishment and was suspended from her posts.

This centenary edition celebrates how these women – who are, the editor emphasises, a fraction of the most influential women in medicine – faced great obstacles, ridicule, even vicious animosity of their peers.


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