We finally have the prospect that members of our population at greatest risk of serious consequences from Covid-19 infection risk will soon be vaccinated (have a listen to Saul Faust’s excellent lecture explaining the science and trials for the various vaccines). Hopefully by the start of the 2021/22 academic year we will be returning to a less anxious and constrained place for work and study.

This year has been incredibly difficult for everyone, most of us trying to make sensible decisions at short notice in an evidence and information vacuum and under constant threat of abruptly changing political mandates. In Southampton, as we have noted many times, our response has been amongst the best and most noted not just internally but nationally. I am very proud of our Faculty and of the part all of you and our colleagues at UHS are playing in the pandemic response.  Despite all the disruption and distraction the big business of the Faculty, including research, education and enterprise has continued to move along albeit at slightly slower pace in many cases. The technical review and realignment is in its final stages and should complete in 2021. This will leave us better placed to support Faculty facilities and importantly offers a better career structure and support for our excellent technical staff, without whom we couldn’t deliver our education and research. The new medical school building (North East Quadrant at Highfield) is now a priority Strategic Major Project. We have made good progress on plans for future changes to our estate with the concept for focusing all health research in one area of the SGH site (with CIC, Somers and IDS buildings). The initial concept has been developed with an Estates Planning Advisory Group chaired by James Wilkinson and this month had approval through SMP and Estates Planning Board to enter a more detailed planning phase over the next 6 months. A major focus will be on enabling interdisciplinary research for healthcare applications and will incorporate the University sustainability strategy.

It is important to all of us that the Faculty of medicine remains strong, relevant and sustainable with a timeline of ten years and beyond; the time to plan this future is now. Many of you attended our virtual all staff meeting at which I presented a future vision developed initially by Heads of School and Associate Deans (this and a recording made by Tim Underwood are available via the FOM Conversation Teams site). Each School has also covered this in recent all staff meetings and provided an opportunity to hear our proposals again and give feedback. What we would like from you is your thoughts reflecting on anything you feel is relevant to the future of the Faculty but particularly we want your thoughts on the four big areas where big leaps forward will help us deliver our social mission of improving the health of the population in the 21st Century. These are healthcare and data science, healthcare enterprise and innovation, societal and community health and translational medicine (bench to bedside and back). All your thoughts and suggestions will feed into our next Senior Leadership Away Day in February and all contributions will be considered in our evolving strategy discussions. We will bring an update on next steps and more specific timeline to the all staff summer term meeting. Please either post comments on the FOM Conversation Teams Site (if you are not a member please email deanmed@soton.ac.uk and ask to be added), or email fomconv@soton.ac.uk.

Finally, I want to recognise and thank all those members of staff who have decided to move to pastures new including those opting to take voluntary severance. Thank you for all you have done for the Faculty and the University during your time here and I wish you all well wherever your paths lead next. I hope everyone will manage to take some quality time away over the coming few weeks, switch off Teams and emails and have a peaceful and restorative break.

Have a very Happy Christmas and I look forward to a New Year containing a successful national vaccination programme and the restoration of more sociable spaces!

Dreaming of a bright future by Professor Diana Eccles

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