An interview with Dr Philip Bell (J H 1968 – 1976)
What do you do?
I am a doctor and my speciality is Sport and Exercise Medicine. I started off as a General Practioner, before specialising. Inactivity and unhealthy eating are major causes of morbidity due to non-communicable disease. The exercise pill has a major role to play in reducing obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, dementia, cancers, such as breast and bowel, and cardiovascular disease. It’s often difficult to get people to take it!
When were you at Wycliffe and what A levels did you study?
I was in the Junior School, as a dayboy, and in Scott House, from 1968-72. Dick Stoker was the Headmaster, and Roger Kirby was my Housemaster. I was in the Senior School from 1972-76, in Haywardsfield. Richard Roberts was Headmaster, and Jack Parry was my Housemaster. My brother, Andy, a very fine fast bowler, was two years behind me, and my sister, Gilly, two years ahead (she was one of the first girls in the sixth form).
I studied Mathematics, Biology and Economics at A level, and decided to do medicine half way through. Fortunately a number of Universities provided a 1st MB course in those days, so I was able to do Physics and Chemistry when I got there. I’m pretty sure I would not have got into Medical School if I had taken them at school. I wasn’t very good at them.
What did you enjoy most about Wycliffe? Did you have a particularly inspirational teacher? Particular memories from school?
I loved the opportunity to try lots of things, and Wycliffe gave me that. Not just on the sports field. I enjoyed expedition days, trips to Dartmoor and Snowdonia, the school plays and CCF exercises and camps. I remember time spent in a sleeping bag on the 1st X1 cricket pitch, and swimming in the Chapel pond.
There were some great teachers at Wycliffe. I guess the one who inspired me most was Roger Kirby who gave me football, cricket and the mountains.
I remember the black and white marks in Assembly, on Saturday mornings, at Ryeford Hall (and I got plenty of the former), agonising cross country runs across the ploughed field and around the top of Doverow Hill (twice), giant combs, ‘knock knock slam’, the TV in Springfield for Wimbledon and the Test matches, the paucity of girls, and the advantages of having a sister in the 6th form.
What did you study at University and where?
I went straight from school and studied Medicine at Sheffield University Medical School from 1976-82.
Were you interested in sport when you were at Wycliffe?
I loved sport at Wycliffe and the opportunity to try as many as possible. I played football, cricket, tennis and rugby for the Junior School. You could also swim, cross-country run and play squash and I did all those things. I missed the football going up to the senior school but carried on playing it in Bristol when I could. I was a very poor scrum-half for the 2nd XV, played cricket for the school, and was Captain of Cross-Country running, although it was the one sport I disliked. It made me very nervous before the start.
What impact did sports at Wycliffe have on your personal development and your career?
Andy and I both went on to play cricket for Stroud (they were the strongest local club, playing on the best pitches against the strongest opponents, so that was the place to go), and football in Bristol with Clifton St Vincents, where Roger Kirby was Chairman.
In my job I have travelled to S. Africa, India and Pakistan with the England Cricket Team, have looked after the players at twenty Wimbledons, and spent years looking after pre-professional ballet dancers at the Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden, and professional footballers at Derby County F.C. I was a fan of Brian Clough, and his son, Nigel, was managing them at the time I started. I worked with seven different managers (one of them twice, and he was no better the second time). Derby are still trying to get out of the Championship.
Did you study P.E. at Wycliffe?
I’m not sure we could study P.E. in my day, but it was a popular class as far as I was concerned.
What is the biggest challenge in your career?
I have loved my career in medicine, and was fortunate to find a speciality which was very practical and enthused me. It goes very quickly, and I have to pinch myself sometimes. I never stop learning (time to pack it in if you do). For me the most important attributes are compassion and empathy if you are patient facing. They sustain you, and I would never go on strike. I have been fortunate to work with amazing friends and colleagues, who support you when you are away from family, or when things go wrong.
PB November 2019