E-interview with Professor Tom Dening
Tom Dening was appointed in October 2012 as Professor of
Research at the Institute of Mental Health, University of
Nottingham; and Honorary Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry,
Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. He studied
Medicine at Newcastle University and trained in Psychiatry in
Cambridge and Oxford. From 1991 to 2012, he was a Consultant
Psychiatrist in Old Age Psychiatry in Cambridge. From 1999 to 2002
was seconded part-time to the Department of Health as a Senior
Professional Adviser, including work on the National Service
Framework for Older People. From 2002 to 2011, he was the Medical
Director of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough NHS Foundation
Trust. His interests include the epidemiology of mental disorders
in older people, treatment of dementia and depression in older
people, psychiatric services, dementia and technology, care homes
and other clinical topics. He is one of the editors of the Oxford
Textbook of Old Age Psychiatry, the leading international work in
this field. He has also published papers on neuropsychiatry,
psychiatric symptoms and the history of psychiatry.
1. Tell us something about yourself that most
people don’t know.
When I get the opportunity, about once a year, I work as a
volunteer guide at Happisburgh Lighthouse in north Norfolk http://www.happisburgh.org/lighthouse/.
It is a brilliant and moving place and being at the top is
wonderful. I’d recommend a visit to anyone.
2. What trait do you deplore in
I’m not sure that it is for me to judge anyone really but I
certainly don’t find arrogance and intolerance to be attractive
qualities. I am depressed by misogyny and bad behaviour towards
women as there seems to be no end to it.
3. Tell us about either a film or a book that left
an impression on you?
I read voraciously and books that have influenced me are too
numerous to mention. Perhaps I’d single out Eugene Onegin (by
Pushkin but also opera by Tchaikovsky). I came across this a few
years ago at a critical point in my life. For me, it shows how you
shouldn’t pass up opportunities at the time they present themselves
because you won’t have them later on. There’s more to the poem than
that but for me the message was that it’s important to have as few
regrets at the end of your career about things you could/should
have done but didn’t. If in doubt, go for it. It may be interesting
and lead you somewhere you haven’t thought of.
4. When not being a psychiatrist, what do you
Watching non-league football or televised Bundesliga games
featuring Borussia Dortmund. In the summer, cricket at Trent
5. Which people have influenced you the
Aside from my parents, the spark for my career was lit by
Professor German Berrios in Cambridge. He is one of the great
psychiatrists of his time and probably the biggest polymath I have
personally known. He supervised my MD research and we had a great
time. It was a great pleasure that he was my best man when I got
6. If you were not a psychiatrist what other
profession would you choose?
Goodness knows. I have been a psychiatrist for so long I can’t
imagine much else. I think that being a bishop must be interesting.
But perhaps I would do something different, like being a
cheesemaker or piloting car ferries between the Orkney or Shetland
7. How would you like to be
Fondly by those who loved me. Otherwise I am content with the
notion that the sand will swiftly wash away my footsteps.