Professor Piyal Sen, Senior House Tutor.
Medical Director and Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist - Chadwick Lodge, Elysium Healthcare, Visiting Professor - Brunel University London, Visiting Academic - Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurosciences, London Chair - Special Committee on Human Rights, The Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Q. What is the name of your house and what do you know about the person whom the house is named after?
Channi Kumar House. Professor Channi Kumar was a professor in perinatal psychiatry who came to the UK from India at a young age, worked for the NHS and after doing his training at The Maudsley Hospital, London, worked for The Maudsley and set up the first ever unit of perinatal psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, the academic wing of the Maudsley. After his death, the mother and baby unit at King’s College Hospital is named after him. He represents the thousands of Black and minority ethnic doctors who primarily came from Commonwealth countries and made a huge contribution to British Medicine.
Q. What are you looking forward to most about being a House Tutor at Brunel Medical School?
I am most looking forward to spending time with the students in my house, not only to assist with their academic activities, but also with any extra curricular activity in which they might be interested. Medicine is not just about the science, it is also about humans and humanity and I particularly look forward to helping my students explore their humanity.
Q. What does your role as Senior House Tutor involve?
My role as senior house tutor involves helping each student to achieve their individual fullest potential and also to function as a team to learn a skill which is very important in medicine. My personal role involves overseeing the whole process, liaising with the house captain and other students in house leadership roles to ensure all the needs of the house are met and also being the tutor for 6 tutees.
Q. Can you tell us a little about yourself and any relevant work experiences e.g. roles at other universities and research interests?
I did my basic medical training and my initial psychiatric training in Kolkata, India. Prior to that, my schooling was in Kolkata as well. I have been thrown into leadership roles right from childhood, acting as house captain for my own house in school and almost 4 decades later, we still discuss the highs and the lows of what our houses achieved when we get together as schoolfriends! I want the BMS students to develop that kind of spirit. When I went to medical school, I was elected President of the Student’s Union and understood the importance of leadership and organisation in medicine, particularly the art of motivating and inspiring others. One of my favourite activities continues to be organising reunions for my own school and college, bringing them together from various parts of the globe.
With regards to professional roles, I work as Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist and Medical Director, running a department of 11 doctors in a 116 bedded psychiatric unit. I am also a visiting Professor at Brunel University, maintaining research links with the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN), Brunel University, as well as with the Institute of Psychiatry, the academic wing of the Maudsley, where I did my research prior to joining Brunel. My areas of research interest are personality disorder, cultural psychiatry and medical ethics. I am particularly interested in research on marginalised groups, like asylum seekers and refugees.
I have experience of taking part in medical student selection, both at King’s College School of Medicine as well as Buckingham University. I am also an MRCPsych examiner for the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I have a strong interest in Human Rights and am currently the Chair of the Special Committee of Human Rights, Royal College of Psychiatrists. I also lead in the delivery of the Professionalism, Ethics and Law (PEL) curriculum for Brunel Medical School, delivering TBL sessions as a content expert.
With regards to other experiences and interests, I am keenly interested in debating and dramatics. During my college days, I was the Assistant General Secretary of the Calcutta Debating Society, organising and speaking in public debates, and also acted in English and Bengali plays on a semi-professional basis with theatre groups, travelling to other cities in India for the performances. This helps me immensely in my current professional career, where I have to appear in court as expert witness and be cross-examined by lawyers and barristers. In many cases, my name has appeared in the media as expert witness for a high profile trial.
I also have an interest in films, and for a while was one of the film reviewers for the British Medical Journal (BMJ), reviewing films of interest to doctors and medical students. I continue to present talks, not only at academic conferences but also to medical school societies on topics of interest, like asylum-seekers and refugees. I have also given evidence to All-Party Parliamentary Committees on the mental health issues in this group, and spoken to the media as spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Q. Our first cohort is incredibly diverse and international! – how do you think this will benefit the students?
I consider the diversity and international nature of the first cohort to be incredibly exciting. As someone with an interest in human rights, I have always personally had a global outlook. As someone who arrived in the UK as an immigrant and fell in love with the global population of London, I relish the opportunity to train our students to be genuine world citizens. Medicine is in many ways a global speciality, I have friends who have started their training in Kolkata, India, but now practice in India and all over the world, not only in the UK, US and Australia, but also places like Papua New Guinea and even Congo.
Medicine is their passport to global citizenship, it makes them feel at home wherever they go, and they are respected for their knowledge and humanity. For our students, to start off with such an incredibly diverse and international peer group, they are very fortunate. Hopefully, it will train them very well for their future practice, whether it is in their countries of origin, in the UK or any other country which they choose to make their home. I am thus very excited about the possibilities and potential benefit to students.