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Chris Whitty
S960 - Chris Whitty - Chief Scientific Adviser (cropped).png
Chief Medical Officer for England
Assumed office
October 2019
Preceded by Sally Davies
Personal details
Born
Christopher John MacRae Whitty

21 April 1966 ( 1966 -04-21) (age 55)
Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England
Alma mater University of Oxford
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Northumbria University
Heriot-Watt University
Profession Physician and epidemiologist

Christopher John MacRae Whitty (born 21 April 1966) is an English physician and epidemiologist who is Chief Medical Officer for England (CMO), Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) at the Department of Health and Social Care and Head of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

In March 2020, Whitty took a leading role in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, alongside Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Early life

Christopher John MacRae Whitty was born in Gloucester on 21 April 1966, the first of four sons born to Kenneth and Susannah Whitty. He spent his early years in northern Nigeria. His father was Deputy Director of the British Council in Athens; he was killed in 1984 when Whitty was 17. Whitty was sent back to the UK for his schooling, and was educated at Windlesham House School in Pulborough, West Sussex, and Malvern College, Worcestershire. Following this, he was educated at Pembroke College, the University of Oxford (BA in Physiology, DSc in medical science), Wolfson College (BM BCh in Medicine, 1991), London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (DTM&H in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 1996; MSc in Epidemiology, 1996), Northumbria University (LLM in Medical Law, 2005), Heriot-Watt University (MBA in Business Administration, 2010), and the Open University (Dip Econ in Economics).

Career

Whitty is a practising National Health Service (NHS) consultant physician at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, and Gresham Professor of Physic at Gresham College. Until becoming CMO he was Professor of Public and International Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). He worked as a doctor and researcher in Africa and Asia. In 2008, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the LSHTM £31 million for malaria research in Africa. At the time, Whitty was the principal investigator for the ACT Consortium, which conducted the research programme.

Government

Admiralty Screen (411824876)
Department for International Development (London office) (far right)

From 2009 to 2015, he was Chief Scientific Adviser and director of research for the Department for International Development (DFID). During this time, with co-authors Neil Ferguson and Jeremy Farrar, he wrote an article in Nature titled "Infectious disease: Tough choices to reduce Ebola transmission", explaining the UK government's response to Ebola in Sierra Leone, which he took a leading role in designing, including the proposal to build and support centres where people could self-isolate voluntarily if they suspected that they could have the disease.

From 2016 to 2019, he was Chief Scientific Adviser and head of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. From 2017 to 2018, he was also interim Government Chief Scientific Adviser and head of the science and engineering profession in government. During this period Novichok, the military nerve agent, was responsible for the 2018 Salisbury poisonings, and Whitty chaired the government SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group in Emergencies) for the crisis.

2020 coronavirus outbreak

Whitty and his two deputies, Jenny Harries and Jonathan Van-Tam, took high-profile roles during the COVID-19 outbreak. This included appearing with prime minister Boris Johnson and alone in press briefings, and giving evidence to parliamentary bodies. Whitty gave updates on developments of the virus in the UK, appearing in televised news conferences in Downing Street with Johnson and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. From 19 March, Whitty appeared in public information adverts on national television explaining the government's social-distancing strategy to reduce the spread of the virus during the pandemic. On 27 March, he was reported to be self-isolating owing to symptoms consistent with COVID-19 after Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had tested positive for the virus. On 6 April, he had reportedly returned to work having recovered from the symptoms of the virus.

During the outbreak, BBC health editor Hugh Pym called him "the official who will probably have the greatest impact on our everyday lives of any individual policymaker in modern times". The Guardian's sketch writer, John Crace, described him as "the Geek-in-Chief, whom everyone now regards as the country's de facto prime minister". At the same time, he was compared to James Niven, the Scottish physician known for reducing the death rate of influenza during the 1918 flu pandemic in Manchester.

Awards and honours

Whitty was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2015 New Year Honours. He is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Public lectures outlining his views on tackling current challenges in medicine and public health include the Gresham lectures and the 2017 Harveian Oration at the Royal College of Physicians.

Personal life

Whitty has been referred to by Whitehall sources as a private person who never discusses his personal life.

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