Professor Angela Vincent
Emeritus Professor of Neuroimmunology and Emeritus Research Fellow of Somerville College,Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Oxford University Hospitals Trust
Angela Vincent’s career was essentially unplanned. She studied medicine and qualified as a doctor without any clear goals. But after the first year as a hospital doctor – which she enjoyed –she enrolled on a Biochemistry MSc at UCL.
“That was probably the only real “decision” about my future I ever made, and I thought that I would stay in basic research - if family circumstances allowed.”
After a three year position in which rather little was achieved, she spent five years at UCL with Ricardo Miledi, an exceptional scientist who was also very tolerant about balancing family life with work. She worked on acetylcholine receptors, and Ricardo suggested that they looked at myasthenia patients’ biopsies. This led to a collaboration with the neurologist John Newsom-Davis at the Royal Free Hospital. She moved to the WIMM with John in 1989. Myasthenia turned out to be a rich source of research and the first antibody-mediated, treatable, neurological disease was very attractive to funders. During these challenging times, Angela was also busy raising four children.
“Over this time, most of my “decisions” were made on the basis of practicalities rather than career aims. It was only in the mid 1990s, when the children had more or less grown up, that I felt I could become a “workaholic” like so many of my male colleagues.”
Studies on individual patients led to the different strands of her subsequent work – targets for antibody-mediated diseases throughout the nervous system, and the role of maternal antibodies in neurodevelopmental disorders. Angela’s Clinical Neuroimmunology service is now a national/international referral centre for the measurement of antibodies in neurological diseases.
“Although I haven’t touched a patient since 1969, the bench to bedside aspects of our current work have made those six years in medicine very useful. I suppose my unspoken ethos is to “make the best of whatever opportunities come your way, follow-up unexpected findings and, perhaps most important, find out what you are good at and do it as well as you can” ”.
Angela’s four children include two clinical academics, a charity accountant and a free-lance “jackofalltrades”! She now has three grand-children, and enjoys mentoring and chatting informally about family and careers.