It is an immense privilege to be Master of this marvelous organization in its 400th Anniversary year.
The Society of Apothecaries has a wonderful history. Since its separation from the Grocers’ Company in 1617 it has made a continuous and important contribution to the regulation and support of its profession. Its initial roles included quality control of the craft, mutual support for its practitioners and the training of apprentices. Among the Society’s many subsequent achievements, three stand out for me: following the “Rose Case” in 1704, apothecaries became forerunners of today’s general practitioners; the passing of the Apothecaries Act in 1815 enabled the Society to regulate the medical profession, thus making it a forerunner of today’s General Medical Council; and its own qualification, the Licence in Medicine and Surgery of the Society of Apothecaries (LMSSA), was awarded until 2003.
Today the Society has an active academic programme. This includes Faculties in the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy and in Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine. It runs seven postgraduate diplomas: two of these are requirements for medical trainees in those specialties, and one is taken internationally. There is an extensive range of courses and lectures, as well as an important archive. The Society has a major charitable focus, particularly supporting medical students; this has been enhanced by its recent successful 400th Anniversary Appeal. It also contributes to City functions and runs a varied social programme.
We have a thriving membership. This is largely medical, with most of the remainder being trained in pharmacy. My own background is in clinical medicine. I am a consultant rheumatologist and general physician based at Charing Cross Hospital; as a Professor of Practice at Imperial College I have particular interests in autoimmunity, research ethics and peer review; and I am Medical Director of King Edward VII’s Hospital, a charitable unit that has a particular focus on the Armed Services. I hope to bring my experience in all of these fields to my role as Master.
Our quarter centenary is an excellent time to consider the contribution that the Society has made to the development and quality of medicine and pharmacy in this country over the last four centuries. But this is also an opportunity to look forward. Our programme of anniversary events will reflect both of these aspects – surveying the past and considering the future; and I much look forward to enjoying these celebrations and other activities with members of the Society and our friends in the coming months. One of these will be an Attended Evensong in St. Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday 20th September at 5.00p.m. This will include a specially commissioned anthem written by Michael Berkeley. Admission is free, and we would welcome people to come and share this celebration with us.