John Edward Tooke

Presentation address by Professor Peter Grant


Leadership in Medicine is a fragile, poorly understood process which you enter at your peril.  We have with us today a man who has skilfully walked the line between his professional obligations and government priorities to become a major influence on medicine in general and, in particular, the growth and development of what has become the most influential body in medical training, teaching and research, the Academy of Medical Sciences.

John Tooke qualified in medicine from Oxford and King’s College and spent four years as a lecturer in Leeds before moving to Charing Cross and Westminster.  A subsequent move to Exeter saw John develop the Peninsula Medical School, one of the new wave of medical schools – arguably the most successful – of which he was Dean from 2006 to 2009.  During his time there, the call came from the upper echelons of government and John chaired an independent inquiry into Modernising Medical careers, whose report, Aspiring to Excellence (popularly known as the ‘Tooke report’), was published in 2008.  A move to London followed, as John took up the role of Vice Provost at UCL and head of life and medical sciences and of the medical school. 

In 2007, John received a knighthood for services to medicine, an enormously well-earned tribute.  It didn’t stop there though, because John was yet to take up his role as President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an honour that came in 2011 and a role which is just drawing to a close this year. A close colleague during this time wrote: 

‘Among John Tooke’s many strengths are his fairness and his desire to be inclusive.  These two qualities have been central to his success as Academy President.  John has always been totally committed to providing support for early career non-clinical researchers and improving bidirectional communication between the Academy and biomedical scientists.  His legacy as President will be step changes in both areas that will result in a more balanced and better-connected community’.

In fact, this description neatly characterises some of the qualities that have led John, not just through his recent time as President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, but through the entirety of a successful and influential career.  A clinician, scientist, leader and ambassador for the medical profession, John Tooke embodies and stands astride modern medicine. 

Vice-Chancellor, I am delighted to present to you for the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, John Edward Tooke.