by John Clarke ARPS
On Friday 31st October the team, Peter Walton, Julie Ferry, Ian Stafford and myself were invited to Newcastle Medical School to photograph Professor Doug Turnbull. He is the leader of the Mitochondrial Research Unit based there. This is currently in the news, due to the exciting work they are doing on some rare but devastating hereditary diseases that are carried by the mitochondria, which are the bits of genetic material outside the nucleus of the cell. Permission for human trials is now being sought in Parliament. The research gives hope to couples who, until now, have been unable to have babies unaffected by devastating genetic disease, usually incompatible with survival.
Professor Turnbull had helpfully arranged a reserved disabled parking space, so we all piled into my car. On arrival we made our way to the unit, where we were made comfortable by the staff. The Prof arrived before our booked time, and had given considerable thought to suitable backgrounds, offering a choice of three. We chose the laboratory and a large poster showing the Departments name with illustrations of the work they do.
The whole experience was made very pleasant by his friendly attitude, and being able to photograph in his laboratory was a real bonus. Microscopes seem a lot bigger than I remember at my medical school. He comes across as modest and self-effacing in spite of his achievements – he certainly tolerated us for as long as we needed and was also able to arrange introductions to photograph other important figures in the North East medical world.
In need of refreshments after our efforts we repaired to the students’ cafe, safe in the knowledge that we didn’t have to tie an absent fellow member, renowned for his old world charm, to his chair to avoid a diplomatic incident with the mainly female medical student population.
Pictured: Professor Doug Turnbull photographed by John Clarke