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Professor Paul Bradley


Friends, colleagues and former students of Professor Paul Bradley, former Director of Clinical Skills at Cardiff University, will be sad to hear of his death on Boxing Day at the age of 63. 

He leaves Pam, his wife of 38 years, with whom he formed a strong and influential working partnership in the field of clinical simulation and clinical skills education.

Paul was an award-winning, internationally renowned teacher, who was driven by a passion for improving medical education for the benefit of students and patients.  He was widely respected for his innovative and creative application of evidence-based approaches to the teaching of clinical and communication skills.

Paul trained as a surgeon in Leeds before becoming a GP and joining Mollie McBride and John Bligh at the Lache Health Centre in Chester, where he quickly earned the love and respect of patients and colleagues alike.  The Lache was a pioneering practice, involved in much research and innovation – Sir Denis Pereira-Gray described it in the British Journal of General Practice as “one of the best known in the region” – and thanks to Paul, it became the first paperless practice in the country.  He was keenly interested in the potential of information technology on learning, and subsequently became a GP trainer, an associate advisor for IT in the Department of General Practice at the University of Liverpool, and national President of the Medical Computer Society.

In 1996 he was approached by the University of Liverpool to set up the pioneering clinical skills programme in the new undergraduate problem-based learning curriculum that was being developed at the time.  He subsequently moved to the University of Dundee, and then in 2001 was appointed Professor and Director of Clinical Skills at the new Peninsula Medical School in the far South West of England.  His role on the foundation team was to ensure that the clinical skills teaching spaces, staff and programmes were ready for the first intake of students in September 2002.   By the time he left Plymouth for Cardiff University School of Medicine in 2010, Peninsula’s reputation as a flagship centre for the teaching of clinical skills was firmly established.

At Cardiff, Paul played a significant role as Director of Clinical Skills, leading the reform of this key aspect of the curriculum within the new C21 programme of undergraduate medical education.   His innovative, scholarly and rigorous approaches to education, coupled with his enthusiasm, charm and inclusive approach to management helped to consolidate Cardiff’s reputation for high quality, patient-focused clinical education. He retired in 2012 on health grounds.

Paul was characterised by his modesty and eagerness to learn; nevertheless he had an outstanding record of personal scholarship with honours in his undergraduate exams and distinctions in his postgraduate qualifications.  He was recognised by the Higher Education Academy in 2010 with a National Teaching Fellowship, and in 2011 was presented with the Silver Medal of the Academy of Medical Educators for his outstanding lifetime contribution to medical education and in gratitude for his service to the Academy itself.   He leaves behind a tremendous legacy of scholarship in teaching; he published widely during his career and his 2006 paper in Medical Education on setting up clinical skills centres remains one of the highest cited international articles ever published in the journal.  

Paul had a curiosity, energy and a ‘can-do’ attitude to learning that inspired generations of medical students, and he always practised what he preached.  For example, he undertook a Master’s Degree in Education in 2011, gaining a distinction, for no other reason than that he was interested to rediscover what it was like to be a student and to refresh his curiosity about learning.  Even after his retirement, he continued to throw himself into new ideas and plans, including learning ballroom dancing, and developing further his already formidable cooking skills.  His enjoyment and sense of fun were infectious, his influence on medical education has been profound, and he will be sadly missed by his many friends and colleagues.  His former students, with whom he and his wife Pam maintained many strong friendships, will remember him with great affection.

Julie Browne and John Bligh
Cardiff, December 2018