Our 2021 FSRH Honorary Fellows

Posted 29 April 2022

Date: 29 Apr 2022

Type: FSRH News and Information

We are proud to announce that Dr Lynne Gilbert, Dr Chris Wilkinson, Dr Azmy Birdi and Dr Rebecca French have been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the FSRH 2021.

Leadership in SRH is so important, and each year we welcome our Honorary Fellows to the faculty. This is a nominated category, for those individuals who have rendered exceptional services to the science or practice of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare. They can be healthcare professionals, but they do not need to be.

FSRH members can nominate those they feel deserve an Honorary Fellowship, and our FSRH Council votes on nominations. We had a number of high calibre nominations, and are pleased to award Honorary Fellowships of the FSRH to Dr Lynne Gilbert, Dr Chris Wilkinson, Dr Azmy Birdi and Dr Rebecca French.

As we were unable to have an in-person awards ceremony, our FSRH President, Dr Asha Kasliwal, spoke a few words on behalf of the Faculty whilst each Honorary Fellow’s citations were read out by their nominees. This was followed by a short acceptance speech from each Honorary Fellow.

On behalf of the FSRH, we congratulate each and everyone one of you for your Honorary Fellowships, these are well deserved and very well done. 

You can watch our 2021 Honorary Fellowship videos by clicking on the links below. 

Dr Claudia Krause with Dr Lynne Gilbert

Dr Jane Dickson with Dr Chris Wilkinson

Dr Anu Swamy (Dr Clare Wescott) with Dr Azmy Birdi

Professor Kaye Wellings with Dr Rebecca French

Read more about their nominations:

Dr Lynne Gilbert

Nominated by: Claudia Krause 

Headshot of Dr Lynne GilbertDr Lynne Gilbert has been a passionate proponent and outstanding ambassador for Reproductive Healthcare of the highest quality for 31 years and shows no signs of slowing down. While she could have easily retired several years ago (and returned to a more leisurely pace if so desired), she has continued to work-full time as Clinical Lead for Reproductive Health. She has been innovative on how to maintain the highest quality of training for staff working over a large geographical area. When virtual meetings still seemed unattainable, she devised a monthly Newsletter and a monthly Case Scenario where she shared latest information in contraception and provided food for thought and education to staff working at multiple disparate locations at different times. This highly successful and appreciated scheme has been copied by other specialties within the trust and is read and commented on well beyond its original target audience throughout East Anglia.

Her dedication to making use of the local electronic patient record system by creating comprehensive, yet easy to use templates has helped to further consistent clinical care, as evidenced in outstanding results in local and national contraception audits. These templates have been adopted throughout the trust, covering all East Anglia. They are shortly due to be replaced by a novel interactive version with a didactic element, on which Dr Gilbert is working currently.

As a trainer, she has been often noted often for her outstanding teaching skills. She has also shown exceptional dedication to forward LARC training of all integrated nursing staff within iCaSH Cambridgeshire to the highest standard, resulting in an unusually high percentage of coil fitters among nurses in our area.

Coil fitters employed by iCaSH Cambridgeshire, including nursing staff, are trained in transvaginal ultrasound for device location, thanks to Dr Gilbert. When no suitable national ultrasound course was available, she devised a training scheme herself, including several sessions of theory, practical training with a model and supervised practice with patients. This highly innovative scheme is to be rolled out throughout the trust which covers contraception for East Anglia and other areas north of London. This has been instrumental to trust wide acquisition of new ultrasound machines, which will not provide high quality 3D imaging, but will also facilitate integration of community Gynaecology care into regional services, which is anticipated in the near future in a move to further improve patient care.

While working tirelessly in the above areas she has also been active in various committees, including the trust wide Medicines and Safety Governance Group and the Clinical Systems Standardisation Group, and nationally in the FSRH Clinical Standards Committee, and the Integrated Sexual Health Information Group. Her work ethic and expertise have been exemplary if not unparalleled.

Despite the demands on her time, she has remained a humble and invariably approachable and interested clinician and colleague, passing on her enthusiasm for Reproductive Health without fail.

Throughout the COVID pandemic she has been working tirelessly in adjusting services and providing guidance for best possible care, providing both leadership through advice and example. Despite being in the at high risk for COVID group by age alone, she never missed a day’s work and in fact sacrificed some of her annual leave to help with service bottle necks in reproductive Health.

Dr Lynne Gilbert was born 1954. Before finding her calling medicine, she made a little academic detour with a non-medical undergraduate degree in 1975 from Cambridge. She then spent 5 years at the University of Bristol, first in the Department of Education, then in the Department of Botany, where she studied the green hydra symbiosis.

After a year in the Department of Agricultural Science at Oxford University, she returned to Cambridge where she graduated in Medicine in 1985. She continued to work locally as house surgeon, research assistant, senior house officer, and clinical assistant while also raising a family of three children.

Through the years

In 1990 she became a Clinical Assistant at the Family Planning Clinic in Cambridge. From then on she devoted her professional life to Reproductive Health and Reproductive Health training. She obtained her DFSRH in 1991, when it was still called “Joint Certificate in Contraception”. She has been a registered DFSRH trainer for many years, and a Fellow of the Faculty since 2007.
Through various provider changes and promotions, she finally rose to the rank of Associate Clinical Specialist and became Clinical Lead in Reproductive Health for iCaSH Cambridgeshire in 2010, a position which she holds to this day.

In the meantime, she served 6 years as regional adviser and assessor of the FSRH of the RCOG for the East Anglian Deanery. In 2012 she became a member of the FSRH Clinical Standards Committee, where she also was vice-chair for some time. In 2013 she became a member of the Integrated Sexual Health Information Group and obtained a Postgraduate Award in Education at Keele University.

Dr Chris Wilkinson

Nominated by: Jane Dickson 

Headshot of Dr Chris WilkinsonChris Wilkinson has recently retired from medical practice. His entire professional career was dedicated to SRH and the FSRH, beginning active work for the FSRH as secretary of the clinical and scientific committee in 1995, being a Council member and culminating in becoming FSRH President for 5 years from 2011-2016. Chris is an ardent advocate for women's healthcare and even though he embraced integration of sexual health services, he was a staunch advocate for the importance of specialist SRH and the fact that this should never be lost within the auspices of STI management alone. He became President of FSRH and campaigned for the availability and accessibility of holistic women's care, incorporating reproductive rights, contraception and sexual health and community Gynaecology. Prior the Chris's Presidency the profile of FSRH was relatively low amongst high-profile decision-making bodies. Chris in association with the CEO Jane Hatfield decided to invest in an external affairs team who now work to raise the profile of the FSRH with Government and Department of Health and external partnerships especially with the RCOG, RCGP and RCN. It was under Chris's leadership that the FSRH applied for, and were accepted for, membership of the AOMRC which has led to the FSRH being seen as a key influencing medical organisation.

As President of the FSRH, Chris began the change of FSRH membership from doctors alone to the multidisciplinary organisation that it has now become. After obtaining support from the RCGP and RCN, FSRH nurse training, membership and qualifications were established. He also led on the changes to GP and nurse training to increase access to LARC methods across the UK. Chris established and led a working group on conscientious objection to abortion in medical practice and training. This instigated the FSRH policy on CO and influenced many other organisations.
Chris was the Chair of the NICE Guideline Development for CG30 - Long-Acting Reversible Contraception, which has been responsible for an exponential increase in the availability of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception - meaning much more cost-effective and efficacious contraception for women. He was also the Clinical Lead for the e-learning for the healthcare e-SRH project, which is one of the most used e-LfH projects, and is fundamental to the delivery of SRH qualifications. This project won the e-government award for education in 2010.

Chris has tirelessly campaigned for appropriate access and availability of women's holistic sexual and reproductive healthcare. He has been a key influencer in SRH both in the local forum (role in London) to the National Forum (Role as President of FSRH). Notwithstanding these roles, he has also been a prestigious researcher and publisher (has > 50 publications) and has undertaken significant charitable work in his role as Medical Director of the Margaret Pyke Trust, an independent charity whose function is to promote better sexual and reproductive healthcare through advocacy research and training. Chris's unique contribution to the world of SRH will be very much missed now he has retired but his legacy is a more well governed, prestigious, recognisable and highly regarded FSRH as well as an understanding of the unique place of SRH and its expansion as a specialist area of healthcare in the UK.

Through the years

Chris's medical career began in 1985. He performed a range of junior hospital jobs particularly in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Genitourinary Medicine and Dermatology. Most of his junior jobs were based in London and a review of his early CV very much resembles the curriculum for current day CSRH. He became the Lead Clinician in Family Planning and colposcopy at Guys and St Thomas' in 1994 before moving to Kings College Hospital in 1996 where he was the first Consultant in Women's Sexual health and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Gynaecology and Genitourinary medicine.

In 2003 he moved to the prestigious position of Consultant in Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare at the Margaret Pyke Centre where he was the successor to Professor John Guillebaud. During the time from his appointment at MPC to his retirement in 2020, he led on integrating GUM into the MPC and led many successful tenders so that ultimately, he was leading on SRH delivery across 5 London boroughs. During this time, he also served as the Chair of the London Leads in Contraception and worked with the London Sexual Health Programme. In this role, he led on obtaining funding and chaired the Pan London LARC Training programme, established Pan London PGDs in contraception and STI care, played a key role in the London Sexual Health needs assessment (Sex and Our City 2008) and with the Director of the London Sexual Health Programme developed the London Integrated Sexual Health Tariff.

Dr Azmy Birdi

Nominated by: Anu Swamy

Headshot of Dr Azmy BirdiDr Azmy Birdi has been the Gynaecology & Women's Health Lead at Cookham Medical Centre for 21 years. She has been the principal coil fitter, fits implants, and undertakes difficult smears as well as polyp removals and removal of IUDs with lost threads, saving patient visits to the hospital and secondary care referrals. She has expanded this service to other practices in Maidenhead which has been a boon and blessing for patients who otherwise face long waiting lists for the Family Planning Clinic and have to travel out of area.

She ran the Windsor Gynaecology Service (WINGS) for patients in the Windsor & Ascot area.

She is a Menopause Specialist and recognized Menopause Trainer running Menopause Clinics and has continued training & teaching for Menopause Special Skills even during the pandemic. During the first lockdown she created a WhatsApp advice group for local doctors, and this now includes GPs from other parts of the country like Wolverhampton & Cornwall.

It was entirely her initiative to create a Multidisciplinary Menopause & Genitourinary Symptoms Clinic for breast cancer patients, liaising with the local breast service and oncologist. She writes regular updates which are circulated within the local CCG and she has also created Gynaecology pathways for care for DXS which can be accessed for information and decision making re treatment and referrals.

She has been a great activist for empowering women with knowledge and education and has held webinars on a regular basis on various topics like contraception for the older woman, vulvovaginal symptoms of the Menopause. This continues on an ongoing basis. Before the pandemic she organized regular patient educational talks with the practice patient participation groups. Dr Birdi has been invited to speak on the Menopause in the workplace by the Bank of England as well as Harper Collins.

She has been a great asset to our local region as a resource, is always helpful and informative and has worked hard to educate GPs, provide a link with secondary care and is passionate about teaching and training.

Through the years

Dr Azmy Birdi qualified in Bombay, India. She came to the UK and did her MRCOG and was a specialty trainee in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. She then switched to general practice and did her MRCGP and also her postgraduate teaching qualification in Medical Education. She has been a postgraduate educator for general practice since 2003 and in 2009 was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) by assessment.

She is constantly looking at ways to improve delivery of women's health in our local area, not just by working as a doctor but also an activist and advocate, writing to companies and businesses to include Women's Health especially Menopause care as workplace policies.

She has been asked to speak at the Indian Menopause Society Conference and also the Mumbai Obstetrics & Gynaecology conference.

Azmy has membership of two royal colleges and has been made a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. During the pandemic she wrote a book 'What Pesi Did, A Surgeon's Story' which is available on Amazon. During the pandemic she donated the money from sales to Mental Health charities. 

Dr Rebecca French

Nominated by: Kaye Wellings

Rebecca FrenchDr Rebecca French has an impressive track record in carrying out sexual and reproductive health research of the highest policy relevance. In the last two decades she has led several landmark studies. In her doctoral studies, Rebecca created, developed, and tested ‘My Way’, a novel digital intervention aimed at helping women to choose the best contraception for themselves. The intervention was individually tailored and required users to weight their preferences on such criteria as safety, acceptability and effectiveness which was combined with evidence on contraceptive-related outcomes to provide scores for each contraceptive method. ‘My Way’ was one of the first digital contraceptive method decision tools and was subsequently adopted by fpa and Brook Advisory Service as ‘My Contraceptive Tool’. The tool received much positive feedback for both healthcare professionals and those seeking support with their contraceptive options.

In 2000, Rebecca joined the team led by LSHTM, carrying out the national evaluation of England’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy and led the component examining the views and experience of health care practitioners on sexual health provision for young people. In 2002, in response to recommendations made in the National Sexual Health and HIV Strategy to adopt a more integrated approach to sexual health service delivery, the Department of Health put out a call for a national evaluation of the one-stop shop model. Rebecca led the One Stop Shop Evaluation Team, selected by the DH to carry out this research. Her team showed the superiority of one stop shops in providing contraceptive advice and/or supplies to attenders at services for GUM-related reasons.

In 2020, Rebecca was awarded NIHR funding to co-lead, with Kaye Wellings, a major research project, the SACHA study, aimed at providing the necessary evidence to reconfigure health services against a backcloth of recent regulatory and therapeutic trends in abortion provision and care. The collaborative international team amassed to carry out this complex study has the potential to endure beyond the time period of the research and will serve as a pivotal point for future studies into abortion. Also in 2020, Rebecca was commissioned by Public Health England to lead a team charged with designing and piloting a Reproductive Health Tracking Survey, aimed at providing a standard research instrument to be used for national tracking as well as by community level agencies.

Rebecca’s research portfolio is wide and varied and has also included studies into mental health and contraceptive use, fertility awareness, young people’s contraceptive use, and digital methods of providing sexual health advice. She is a member of the fourth National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-4) Reproductive Health Working Group and has led on papers on contraceptive prevalence and sources of supply for Natsal-2 and 3.

An eminently noteworthy achievement of relevance to the FRSH has been Rebecca’s role in the RCOG/FRSH Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Clinical Studies Group. Rebecca was appointed Chair of the CSG in 2017. She has worked tirelessly to restore energy and productivity to the Group and under her leadership, the CSG has gone from strength to strength. She has nurtured an extraordinary solidarity and collegiality among its members. This is reflected in their extensive collaboration on a range of research projects launched under the aegis of the CSG, including the NIHR SACHA Study and, the PHE Reproductive Health Tracking Survey, as mentioned above, and the RCOG Abortion stigma and provider’s study. One of her goals has been to increase the presence of the CSG within and outside the faculty and thereby foster partnerships amongst those interested in SRH research, including those within clinical practice and from other disciplines. The CSG has widened its membership and now offers proposal reviews for those submitting grant and fellowship applications. Two Faculty trainees observe CSG meetings and are supported by CSG mentors. The CSG has had a regular slot at the Academic Scientific Meeting to showcase current research activities.

Rebecca’s commitment to sexual and reproductive health care is also manifest in her teaching activities. For the past decade she has occupied a prominent role in teaching at a senior level within LSHTM, motivating and inspiring successive cohorts of masters students to pursue careers in practice, policy, and research in SRH. Her work was recognised in the Director’s Award for Excellence, awarded to her in 2017. Research undertaken by doctoral students she has or continues to supervise has also had a Sexual and Reproductive Health focus, including fasting practices amongst pregnant and breastfeeding women in Ethiopia; trust and contraceptive practices in South Africa; and hormone replacement treatment in the UK.

Through the years

Dr French has worked in the area of Sexual and Reproductive Health Research for 30 years. Following training and practice as a Staff Nurse at St Marys Hospital in the late 1980s, in both general and genito-urinary medicine, in 1991, Rebecca shifted her focus from clinical practice to research, taking up the post of Research Nurse in GUM at UCLH. In 1993 she was appointed Research Assistant/Research Fellow at UCL’s Centre for Sexual Health & HIV, and subsequently as Senior Research Associate. Early research included studies on HIV prevention and partner notification, but interest in contraceptive research was fuelled during her work on two Cochrane Systematic Reviews, one on subdermal implants and the other on intrauterine devices and systems. In 1998, whilst still at the Centre, Rebecca enrolled for a masters degree in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and was awarded the prize for the best student thesis of the year. In 2000, she began her part time doctoral studies while working at UCL and was awarded her PhD in 2008. In 2009, Rebecca moved to LSHTM where she was appointed Associate Professor in Sexual and Reproductive Health at LSHTM, where she has since carried out an active programme of research and teaching in the area. In 2020, she gained an honorary contract with Public Health England.

Nominations are now open for our 2022 Honorary Fellows. Current members (of any category) of the FSRH are encouraged to nominate somebody they feel deserves an Honorary Fellowship. For more information on how to nominate, please click here. Deadline for nominations is 24 May 2022.