UWE awards honorary degree to Professor Bhupinder Sandhu

Issue date: 16 November 2009


University of the West of England The University of the West of England will award the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science to Professor Bhupinder Sandhu in recognition of her outstanding contribution to public services and charities and as an exemplary role model for women in science and medicine and for individuals from ethnic minorities.

The Honorary Degree will be conferred at the Awards Ceremony of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Bristol Cathedral on Tuesday 17 November at 10.30.

Bhupinder Kaur Sandhu was born in Garcha, District Jullunder in the rural State of Punjab in India. She came to England with her parents in 1963 and was educated at Moat Girls Secondary Modern School, Wyggeston Girls Sixth Form, Leicester and University College London, where she was Vice-President of the Union, graduating in Medicine in 1974. After clinical posts in a number of teaching hospitals including Great Ormond Street, King's College, Westminster and Charing Cross and University College in London, and Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, she completed a Doctorate in 1987 at the Institute of Child Health London University. In 1988 she was appointed to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Bristol, the first female consultant paediatrician to be appointed since 1947.

Following her appointment Bhupinder Sandhu built a paediatric gastroenterology unit at the Children's Hospital dealing with complicated nutritional and gastrointestinal diseases. The unit team now serves the South West population of over 5.5million people as a tertiary referral unit for gastroenterological problems in children and holds outreach clinics from Truro to Swindon. Professor Sandhu is a Visiting Professor in Child Health, Gastroenterology and Nutrition at the University of West of England (UWE) and Bristol University, based at their Joint Centre for Child and Adolescent Health. She is President of the Commonwealth Association of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (CAPGAN) and served on an advisory committee to Commonwealth Health Ministers. She is Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Equal Opportunities Committee and leads on equality issues, which has included appearing on BBC's Today programme. She has also served as President of The Medical Women's Federation.

Professor Sandhu said,"I am delighted and deeply appreciative of this honour being bestowed on me by the University of the West of England. I value immensely my links with this University which places such high value on access and opportunity in education for all and plays such a vital role in the training of health professionals.

"Women are playing an increasingly important role in science and medicine, although there are still many barriers to overcome. In honouring me today the University is indirectly honouring the contribution of all the women in science.”

Professor Sandhu was a Convenor and Secretary of the British Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition from (1993 -96), and co-hosted the Society's inaugural meeting in 1986. She has been: Secretary of the South West Paediatric Club; Chairman of the Division of Paediatrics; and, a member of the Bristol Medical School Admissions Committee. Professor Sandhu has served as an external examiner for Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Cardiff and Birmingham Universities, and currently Imperial College London.

Professor Sandhu has published book chapters and over 80 papers in international journals on subjects related to Child Health, including inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis and gastro-oesophageal reflux, has given numerous invited guest lectures in the UK and abroad on these topics, and has chaired international meetings including a symposium she organised jointly with the World Health Organisation for whom she has served as an advisor. She spearheaded the setting up of RCPCH/Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Fellowship which enables paediatricians to spend a year of post graduate training in a developing country. She chaired a European research working group, reviews papers for a number of international journals, and has advised a number of research bodies and Department of Health.

In May 2002 Professor Sandhu received from Mrs Cherie Blair at the prestigious National Asian Women of Achievement awards 'The Professional of the Year Award'. Her voluntary and public service experience includes having been: Chair of school governors at Highgate Primary School, London, Chair of the BBC West Regional Advisory Council, Foundation Board Member of the Food Standards Agency (appointed by the Secretary of State for Health, 2000-02); Board Member VSO (1998-2005); Member of Council Clifton High School (1994-2006); and Deputy Chair of the Board of Governors of UWE (2003-8, Board Member 1997-2008). Professor Sandhu is a member of the governing board of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She is a member of the Chief Medical Officer's “Working Group on Women Doctors” chaired by Baroness Deech which has recently made recommendations to the government to help remove some of the barriers to women doctors' career progression.

She is married to Richard Whitburn and has two daughters both following careers in Medicine.

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