What do you do, Sara?

Sara is acting CEO, but normally Medical Director at Evelina London

Colourful question marks drawn by a child


""March 2023

What is your role?

I am currently acting CEO, which is kind of "the boss", but our executive team truly work as a team. I don't think I am very "bossy", but you'd have to ask my colleagues!

Normally, I’m the Medical Director, which can be harder I think (as loads of things seem to come from leftfield in that role), and you never seem to get to what you were supposed to be doing! 

What made you want to train as a doctor?

My mum was a children’s nurse. At school, I was good at science (especially chemistry), which makes me laugh now as I’m not very scientific and rely much more on emotional intelligence (or "blagging" as my colleagues would say)!

These two things led me to medicine, and I didn’t really ever think of anything other than paediatrics. However, I did work for a stint in anaesthetics at St Thomas’ during my training, and I loved the labour ward. I was taught there by a woman called Geraldine O’Sullivan. She was the most brilliant obstetric anaesthetist, and she almost turned my head in that direction. She was quite scary (but in a good way)!  I remember her telling me, if you do an epidural this way you will never fail, and she was right. She was entirely motivated by getting it right for the woman, her partner and of course the baby.

I never ever thought I’d stay in London, but I got a job in our PICU (at the time based at Guy's Hospital) as a senior house officer. I stayed on to move into the new Evelina London Children’s Hospital. In fact I remember the ambulance journey with the first ICU transfer to the new building, and the rest is history. It’s a very, very hard place to leave.

What do you find exciting about management?

I went into clinical management because I was pretty opinionated about what I thought we needed to do to be an outstanding children’s hospital. I was a little frustrated at the time and thought we should be aiming to be like other children’s hospitals around the world with all our specialities at scale. I wanted to help build an environment where sick children could access the things they need 24/7 (not just by chance that its available when they need it). Hopefully, we have developed well.

We have changed a lot over the years by adding community services, women’s services and now services based at Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals, to Evelina London. I think we are much improved by these additions but have not lost that special "Evelina feeling" that was there when I first joined. We remain restless and determined about getting it right, and I love how much our teams laugh and support each other.

What is your proudest moment?

My proudest moment was actually the response in both waves of the pandemic from all our staff. Every single group, from our wonderful housekeepers to our finance colleagues delivering scrubs to the wards, did their bit. It was awesome.

How do you relax?

I like to say that my main hobby is "being lazy"! I love it. That and walking my ridiculous cocker spaniel. I also have three kids (who aren’t really kids anymore but do still manage to impact on my ability to perform my main hobby…)

If I have any regret, it is that I spent more time at work than I did with them. Making sure you get that old work/life balance thing sorted is so important. I'm trying to address this better myself but currently only at "could try harder".

I should also mention that I have recently joined the most wonderful women’s football club. Generally, I'm about 30 years over the average age, but what I lack in skill and fitness, I make up for with determination! 

Tell us one fun fact...

Many years ago on Christmas Day, I went down the helter skelter slide in Ocean! We did leave enough people manning the fort, but I was accompanied by most of the PICU nursing staff and junior doctors!

Someone might have this on video, but thankfully it hasn't popped up yet...

Colourful question marks drawn by a child

Thank you to the children and young people who have so brilliantly illustrated our blog pages.