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Alumni of the month – February 2014

Professor Dinesh Bhugra CBE
MSc Sociology, 1991

Robert Humphreys

Former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dinesh Bhugra, is currently Professor of Mental Health and Diversity at King's College London and will soon become the President of the World Psychiatric Association, leading over 200,000 Psychiatrists worldwide. 
As a well-known commentator and prolific author on social and public health psychiatry, Professor Dinesh admits there is still much work to do to remove the stigma related to mental illnesses in wider society: “Bearing in mind that 1 in 4 of us are likely to develop mental illness at any given time, it is the younger generation who need to carry the message forward. As more public figures declare their experiences with mental illness and mental health problems, the easier this will become”.
Having completed his basic training in Psychiatry at the University of Leicester, his growing interest in understanding how society and culture impacts on mental illness brought him to LSBU: “London South Bank University offered evening study hours, flexibility and the MSc Sociology course fitted in nicely with my other commitments.” The strong reputation of the Sociology department, as well as flexible evening studies and ready access to tutors, was an added attraction for the trainee Psychiatrist. At that time, LSBU was conducting cutting-edge sociological research about the NHS as well as attitudes and behaviours towards homosexuality, which fitted in with the Professor’s interests.
As he reminisces about his time with LSBU, Dinesh identifies several important lessons he acquired on the course which accelerated his career to date: “Looking beyond the black box, being aware of my strengths and weaknesses whilst making the most of the opportunities that come my way. This is what I learned at LSBU which has helped me achieve my career goals.”
Of his vast and distinguished career, his proudest professional achievement came when he was elected President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists unopposed: “This was the first time it had happened in the history of the College. I worked with members to remind everyone why Psychiatry is such an exciting speciality and instilling pride in what we do.”
Following a narrow victory in a closely-fought election, Dinesh will take over as President of the World Psychiatric Association, the international umbrella organisation of psychiatric societies across the globe, from September 2014. In this pivotal role, he will focus on the public mental health agenda working with policy makers and other stakeholders to deal with stigma and improve medical curricula: “It is a great honour to lead over 200,000 Psychiatrists worldwide. Psychiatry as a profession and Psychiatrists, as well as people with mental illness, are often stigmatised very heavily so addressing that will be a major challenge.”
Find out more about Professor Dinesh Bhugra’s work