About me

I am an Emeritus Professor of Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh (2020). I held the Grant Chair of Dermatology in Edinburgh from 2000 to 2020, and before that the Chair of Dermatology in Newcastle from 1992 to 1999. I trained in dermatology and clinical science in Newcastle, Vienna and Strasbourg.

Academically, I tend to be a serial monomaniac. I have researched in many areas: early work on several genodermatoses; skin cancer genetics, including some work on p53 and the skin; and most notably, the identification of the gene for red hair and sun sensitivity, and hence the evolution of human pigmentation (work done in collaboration with Ian Jackson, Rosalind Harding and others). I have also published on the measurement of itch in animals and man. I am probably most proud of the papers I have written on the nature of clinical discovery and its relation to clinical medicine.

I am a past president of the European Society for Dermatological Research (my ‘academic home’), and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Around ten years ago my research on automated and semi-automated methods of skin cancer diagnosis (in collaboration with Bob Fisher in Edinburgh Informatics) led to an interest in how students learn and how we could and should reform medical education. My online textbook of skin cancer (for medical students), skincancer909, is here.

I continue to think and write about medical education, and how we frame the relation between science and medicine, on the one hand, and the craft that is clinical practice, on the other. A recent article is here.

An academic cv is here.

Personal

I have two daughters from my first marriage, Rebecca and Elizabeth. I am married to Lisa Naysmith, by way of Zambia, a fellow skin watcher and dermatological surgeon.

  • Pleasures: Watching the men in red defeat England.
  • Greatest sadness: Watching the men in red lose to England.
  • Number of times played on that national stadium: 2.
  • Mission statement: do not be silly.
  • Motto: Fail. Fail again. Fail better (Beckett).

I was born three miles from Taff’s acre and spent my formative years in Cardiff. My mother was from Cork in Ireland, and my father from Neath in South Wales. I have one sibling, Alun (Al of Penglas), who lives in West Cork, near Skibbereen.