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Working at the Central Middlesex Hospital


Research: the art of the possible
Harold Lambert Physician
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I realised I would never be good at research. You need to be really... first of all, you need to be very dextrous about how things work and I'm not particularly and the other thing is you... they thought I was good because I was careful and, but that's a different thing really and, you have to also be able to cone down on a very focused, accessible problem. Didn't Medawar call it this, the art of the possible?

[Q] The art of the possible, yes, yes, yes.

Wasn't it, is that right? The art of the possible. Absolutely bang on. Now, I think there are two kinds of research folk. There's a very rare chap, Watson, Crick, who... Brenner, who don't do that, they go for the jugular and they're able to do it. I think the rest of us go for little things and that's the way you do it and... and I knew I wasn't terribly good at that. I could think of big questions which were totally useless to think about, except for the Watsons and the Cricks, and so I... I wanted it to be part of my life because of this business of coning down. I wanted really to try and get to know about some things. I mean, you know, if you're doing medicine you've got to... the patients asking you a question, you've got to... either got somebody else or see what you can do. I mean, if you were doing history, you wouldn't do it that way. You'd say: China between 43BC and 69AD, oh Europe, oh well, I don't know that. You know, you can do... you can't do that in medicine, can you? You've got a... you've got a problem before you and I couldn't... I couldn't really do with that as my whole life. I needed to have something I focused on.

British doctor Harold Lambert (1926-2017) spent his career tackling infectious diseases, helping in the development of pyrazinamide as an effective treatment for tuberculosis. He also published work on the rational use of antibiotics and was a trustee and medical advisor for the Meningitis Research Foundation.

Listeners: Roger Higgs

Roger Higgs was an inner city GP for 30 years in south London, UK, and is Emeritus Professor of General Practice at Kings College London, where he set up the department.

He gained scholarships in classics at Cambridge but changed to medicine after a period of voluntary work in Kenya in 1962. He was Harold Lambert's registrar for 18 months in the early 1970s, the most influential and exciting episode in his hospital training. He set up his own practice in 1975. He helped to establish medical ethics as a practical and academic subject through teaching, writing and broadcasting, and jointly set up the 'Journal of Medical Ethics' in 1975.

His other work included studies in whole person assessment and narrative in general practice and development work in primary medical care: innovations here included intermediate care centres, primary care assessment in accident and emergency departments, teaching internal medicine in general practice and establishing counselling services in medicine.

He was made MBE in 1987 for this development work and now combines bioethics governance, teaching and writing with an arts based retirement.

Tags: research, dexterous, accessible probllem

Duration: 1 minute, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008