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Dr Skinner retires after worldwide career

2024-07-09T17:35:39+01:00Tuesday 9 July 2024|

An “inspirational” and trailblazing Walsall Doctor who has developed healthcare for babies and children worldwide has retired after an extraordinary career spanning more than five decades.

Dr Alyson Skinner, 73, graduated as a Pharmacist in her native Ireland in 1972, then as a Doctor in 1981 – two of six degrees she holds – moving to England the following year, starting more than 40 years in the NHS.

From there she specialised in Paediatrics, her work taking her all over the UK, Canada, France, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Egypt and Vietnam.

After spells in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester – where she gained an Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree – she held a Senior Registrar post in Cardiff and started globetrotting. She worked as a Clinical Fellow and completed a research project at the NNU, British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital, Vancouver, Canada.

Dr Skinner returned to Birmingham for her first Consultant post, at City Hospital in January, 1997.

During this time, she became a College tutor, completing a Master’s Degree in Medical Education at the University of Dundee in 2002.

Her project on the educational environment led to the publication of the Postgraduate Hospital Educational Environment Measure (PHEEM), which has been cited in more than 372 publications.

She developed a pathway for managing teenagers admitted following an overdose and created pathways to improve the experience of children who came to A&E.

In February, 2003, Dr Skinner joined the Neonatology department at Hopital de Brousse, Lyon, France.

She returned to the West Midlands in March, 2005 when she became  Transport Lead for the Black Country Neonatal Network when it was being established.

Here she:

  • directed the Newborn Life Support (NLS) courses at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT), and tutored in Neonatology
  • taught NLS in Sri Lanka for the first time
  • studied for an MSc in Clinical Nutrition, a Diploma in Medical Leadership and a BA (Hons) in Modern Languages

At RWT she started working for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), became an examiner, held the post of Senior College tutor and taught on the Educational Supervisor’s course all over the UK, Malaysia and Egypt. She held the post of Associate Professor at the University of Dubai, lecturing medical students and doing collaborative research.

She initially retired from RWT in January 2016 but continued part-time at Walsall Healthcare until September 2020, when she scaled back to work one day a week.

During this time, Dr Skinner developed and delivered Neonatal courses in Vietnam, teaching there for 60 weeks over four years.

Several of her suggestions, such as NLS be taught in all Neonatal units in Vietnam, and establishment of a Neonatal network to relieve bed congestion in the larger NNUs, have been adopted.

Since 2020, her involvement in research in Vietnam has resulted in five publications in peer-reviewed journals. She also wrote four chapters on Neonatology to the first Neonatal book written in Vietnamese.

At Walsall, for the last four years she has done mainly outpatient work, also directing NLS courses. And it is here she has enjoyed it the most.

“My time at Walsall Manor has been the happiest of all my years working as a Consultant,” said Dr Skinner.

“This is due to my wonderful colleagues who work in such a cooperative way and create a great working environment and atmosphere.

“I’m particularly grateful to them for facilitating my teaching trips abroad, allowing me to do some of my most worthwhile work, which I hope will have an impact for future newborns in Vietnam.

“I’m sure the Paediatric department will continue to thrive and deliver a great service to the children of Walsall.”

Colleague Dr Pratima Jain said: “I was fortunate to work with Dr Skinner at every stage of my career, from a Senior House Officer to middle grade and finally as a Consultant colleague.

“In her, I found one of the most influential senior colleagues and trainers and most diligent clinician who has committed her life to Neonatal care. She is the most inspiring Consultant who has always managed to find a silver lining to the dark clouds.”

Dr Skinner doesn’t intend putting her feet up in retirement. As well as learning German since COVID-19 started, she intends to rekindle her interest in classical music – she has a diploma to teach piano – and wants to travel to Japan.

But as she recovers from cancer and a broken hip, she continues teaching Vietnamese doctors remotely and intends to develop an online neonatal course for medics in less developed countries.

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