My student experience
Dr Christopher Johnson
"I had a marvellous tutor who gave me great confidence and was very focused on my success both scientifically and personally."
CourseBSc Biochemistry (Medical)
Dr Christopher Johnson is a Consultant, Business Mentor and Coach at Meritas, and a Non-Executive Director of Mundesley Hospital. During his 30 years career in healthcare, Christopher has lived and worked in three continents working for private, NHS and charity organisations in healthcare.
He has worked at Board level for several established FTSE100 organisations including GSK, AstraZeneca, WoltersKluwer Health and Nuffield Health, established two companies of his own and currently holds non-executive directorships in the UK.
In 2010 he earned his Doctorate in Business with a thesis comparing healthcare outcomes in three continents.
He has been awarded three Fellowships for his contributions to healthcare business - Fellow of the Institute of Directors, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and earlier this year was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists for distinguished services to the science and practice of pathology following his leadership roles in the NHS.
What attracted you to choose the University of Surrey and to study your course here?
At the time I was applying, I set some criteria. The first was that I wanted to study the ‘medical’ option of biochemistry as I was interested mainly in humans and not so interested in mushrooms. The second was that I wanted a four year sandwich course with the Professional Training placement year being spent in research.
When I heard that there were strong ties between Surrey and the Wellcome Foundation, my imagination was captured. Then came the setting of the University – next to the famous Cathedral on the hill where ‘The Omen’ was filmed and in beautiful Surrey - I was pretty much decided.
Finally, to top it all off, when I visited the University open day I loved the feel of the campus, and there was a jazz concert which finally made up my mind that Surrey was my first choice!
What is your strongest memory of your time at Surrey – what do you picture first when you think of being here?
I remember enormous levels of activity both academically, socially and in sports. I was very keen on getting a balance of all three and played squash up to three times a day, playing for the County, went to numerous concerts and still managed to study enough to secure my First!
The Professional Training placement year spent at Wellcome Laboratories in Beckenham defined the future of what I wanted to do for the remainder of my career.
What were the best things about your course?
I had a marvellous tutor who gave me great confidence and was very focussed on my success both scientifically and personally. The balance of lectures, practical and study time hit exactly the right blend for me to flourish and the Professional Training placement was instrumental in helping me to decide my career path.
How did your Professional Training placement impact upon your ability to get a graduate job?
My placement was spent at the Wellcome Research Laboratories looking into the effect of prostacyclin on metabolism in brown adipose tissue. The importance of this to me was that it was part of pharmaceuticals research and cemented my plan of a career in the healthcare industry.
Without doubt it gave me the edge when coming to apply for jobs and my MBA, which I did later, as it represented a working year. It was also a paid year which allowed me to accumulate some savings for the future.
What did you find most useful about your Professional Training placement?
It defined the fact that a career in healthcare-related areas was to be my career for my whole life.
What do you do now and what do you find most enjoyable about your line of work?
I have run two Companies since 2005. One which provides consultancy to the private healthcare sector and NHS, and one which provides leadership training to the medical profession in the developing world.
However, my career has been very varied – all based on my biochemistry degree – pharmaceuticals, medical devices, medical publishing and running hospitals. I am convinced that had I not had a science grounding, this career path would not have been possible.
Over my career I have been bestowed three Fellowships for my contributions to healthcare business: Fellow of the Institute of Directors, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and earlier this year I was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists for distinguished services to the science and practice of pathology.
What are your top tips for students aspiring to work in your profession?
Think about where you want to be in ten years’ time. Is it in the laboratory, in a commercial or social setting, is it in research or management or a combination of both? Let your passions drive you because if you love what you are doing you will be successful in it. And do not forget your personal and emotional development: always treat people as you would expect to be treated – with loyalty, kindness and fairness.
What aspects of being connected with the alumni network are most important or of most interest to you and why?
My education and career has been good to me and I want to continue to give back – hence my charitable work. I like to stay connected with both the Universities I studied at and enjoy hearing about their progress. If I can help guide future generations to happy and fulfilling careers that gives me a sense of fulfilment.
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