Women of Scotland Lunch 2016 – welcoming Dr Susan Shenkin

Susie1Susan is Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant, Geriatric Medicine Unit, University of Edinburgh, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. She admits that the naming is a ‘bit of a minefield’  and that we can alternatively describe her as Academic Geriatrician, University of Edinburgh and Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh or Academic & Consultant in Care of the Elderly.

Suffice to say that she is an expert on dealing with older people and is an expert on the effectiveness of music therapy on patients with dementia or delirium.

Susan told us: “I graduated from Edinburgh University (MBChB) in 1994, having done an intercalated BSc (Hons) in Psychology. After a general medical rotation in Oxford, and a neurology SHO job in London, I returned to Edinburgh having decided on a career in Geriatric Medicine. I became an SpR in South East Scotland in 1999, and under the mentorship of Prof John Starr (geriatric medicine) and Prof Ian Deary (psychology) was awarded an MRC Training Fellowship investigating lifecourse influences on coCognitive ability and cerebrovascular disease in older age. During this fellowship I studied for an MSc in Epidemiology, graduating in 2002. and was awarded my MD in 2006.

“I completed my training in General and Geriatric Medicine as a clinical lecturer (and honorary SpR) in August 2010. Much of my training has been undertaken flexibly (less than full time). I took up my present post as Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh in November 2011.”

Susan is a consultant in Medicine of the Elderly in NHS Lothian, an academic in the University of Edinburgh and has had a lifelong passion for music. She combines a clinical job caring for acutely ill older people – both in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and in services reaching in to the community – with a research interest in dementia and delirium (acute confusion). Her research is based at the Department of Geriatric Medicine, the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology. She is interested in the causes of dementia and delirium, and ways to identify and care for people with these conditions, including supporting their friends and family. Susan has a long term involvement in working with the Lothian Birth Cohorts, studies of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s; and has helped to establish a new brain imaging bank, developed to help identify how brains change with age.

Seeing the benefits from music provided in hospitals, Susan has worked with the charity Music in Hospitals to bring performers in to the acute hospital setting, rather than their more usual focus of rehabilitation on long stay wards, and care homes. Working with a music therapist, Jilly Mathews, she has pioneered the use of music therapy for patients recently admitted to hospital with dementia and delirium.

Susan enjoys working with a range of specialists in multidisciplinary teams in both her clinical practice and research. She is passionate about encouraging the use of research for the best clinical care for patients. As systematic reviews editor for the scientific journal Age and Ageing she has a particular interest in using systematic reviews of existing research papers to summarise the best evidence available in a particular field. She is a strong advocate for women training as clinical academic researchers, and supports those wishing to train and work less than full time.

Music has always been part of her life: playing violin in the school orchestra, strumming the guitar for youth groups and singing groups when her children were young. She has been a member of a local orchestra, and is now an enthusiastic member of Love Music Community Choir – the UK’s largest! – and advocates music’s healing power in her social life as well as the work environment. Susan is supported by her husband and two children (aged 13 and 10) who play the piano and euphonium respectively, though they are rather less enthusiastic about her singing outbursts round the house.