Professor Kam Bhui starts in a new role at the Department of Psychiatry this month. He is a general adult psychiatrist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, having spent the last 20 years as a clinical academic in East London. His longstanding interests in social and ethnic health inequalities are some of the areas he’ll be taking forward in new collaborations in Oxford.
Tell us a little about yourself and what attracted you to studying/working at the University of Oxford?
I’m a general adult psychiatrist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist and my research interests lie in a field of study known as cultural psychiatry. Essentially this is about combining epidemiological and anthropological research methods to better understand the expression and management of mental distress across diverse cultural groups.
Oxford is clearly an exciting place to work and my recent research interests are closely aligned with the strategic direction of the Department of Psychiatry and Department of Primary Care. Already, I see so many synergies and opportunities for collaborations and exciting advances on health inequalities, ethnicity, multimorbidity, and the role of public health, primary and secondary care.
What is your vision for the team/project/research you study/work with?
Trying to understand ethnic inequalities in severe mental illness has led me to investigations of the bio-social interface, especially the role of clustered disadvantage, social adversity and inflammation. This has implications for place based work and questioning how societal
adversity and inequalities enter institutional practices and interpersonal experiences. My work will focus on investigations of ethnicity and inequalities, including pathways to care, and multimorbidity. I am also involved in research on adolescent mental health and hope to establish programmes on this.
What is currently at the top of your to-do list?
Meeting everyone (tricky in COVID-19 times), establishing collaborations, and preparing grant applications on ethnicity and health inequalities, and on adolescent mental health.
How did you get to where you are today?
Initially I worked in assertive outreach teams with street homeless people, and then in a medical psychotherapy service. In terms of my research career: I qualified at Guys Hospital Medical School in 1988, completed in intercalated BSc Pharmacology at UCL, and then MSc in Mental Health Studies, MSc Epidemiology, and then MD (Res) at Institute of Psychiatry as a Wellcome Training Fellow. I knew psychiatry was my path as a medical student, and have never looked back. Later I worked at Oxleas NHS Trust and then East London NHS Foundation Trust, and Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. In the last five years I’ve been the Head of the Centre at Barts, and since 2013 I’ve served as Editor of BJPsych, a rewarding and nourishing experience through which I see the best of science across all disciplines. I’ve been able to work with some fantastic people nationally and globally which has been a great privilege.
Who or what inspires you?
The moving stories of resilience from patients are very significant. Indeed, this is what led me into psychiatry in the first place. Also some brilliant mentors who encouraged, guided, pushed and supported me along the way. And of course my family and kids!
If you were not in Your study programme/job currently, what would you like to be doing?
Writing historical fiction which I love. I would also be doing more charity work to protect and promote mental health.