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Professor Chris Day appointed as next Vice-Chancellor

10th July 2016

Professor Chris Day, one of the country's leading medical academics, has been appointed as the new Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University from January 2017.

Currently Newcastle University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Professor Day will take over from Professor Chris Brink when he retires in December this year.

Speaking of his appointment, Professor Day, said: “This is a huge honour and I am privileged to be able to lead such a wonderful University with so many talented and dedicated staff and students.

“I am immensely proud of Newcastle University which has become known for its commitment to tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges through its research and teaching. It is this ethos of ‘Excellence with a Purpose’, that has been championed so effectively by Chris Brink during his 9-year role as vice-chancellor, that I pledge to continue.”

Helping prolong and improve the quality of life for patients across the world

Professor Day trained in medicine at Churchill College Cambridge University and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, before coming back “home” to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle in 1985. He quickly moved in to the field of liver medicine and in 1987 took up his first research post at Newcastle University. His work, over three decades, into alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic (obesity related) fatty liver disease has helped prolong and improve the quality of life for patients across the world and won him research medals from the Royal College of Physicians and the British Society of Gastroenterology.

Professor Day was previously the Head of the School of Clinical Medical Sciences at the University and became PVC for the Faculty of Medical Sciences in 2007. Since then, his visionary leadership has seen the medical faculty rise to be in the world’s top 50, establish the UK’s only overseas medical campus in Malaysia and achieve international recognition for its research into ageing, liver and mitochondrial diseases.

As PVC, Prof Day has also spearheaded the development of a series of major new research centres including the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing and Chronic Diseases and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Disease. Most recently, he led the successful bid to establish a National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation in Newcastle, securing £20m from Government.

A member of the University’s Executive Board, Prof Day has helped to develop the introduction of three societal challenge institutes at Newcastle to tackle the global issues of ageing, social renewal and sustainability. These interdisciplinary institutes have enabled significant collaboration between academics from humanities and social sciences; science, agriculture and engineering and medicine.

Improving national standards of medical research, teaching and health care

Prof Day is keen to build on this in his new role: “We benefit from a great breadth of subject excellence at Newcastle, across all of our three faculties, and, because we are not too big, we are able to bring academics from many different subject areas together to tackle “big” research problems in the most creative ways.

“This means we have academics in English working with computing scientists, geographers working with artists and engineers collaborating with medics to develop solutions to societal challenges and this is a real strength. I enjoy bringing teams of people together to answer questions that they couldn’t do alone and so I am delighted that such a rich multi-disciplinary environment already exists at Newcastle.”

Born and raised in the North East, from a state school background, Prof Day, 56, is a passionate advocate for widening participation and enthusing children about science and medicine, irrespective of their circumstances. As a board member of the International Centre for Life, he has been actively involved in establishing ‘Life’ as a beacon for public engagement in science and gives up his own time to give talks and lectures to young people considering a career in medicine. This was recognised by the Association of Colleges who in 2013 presented him with a Gold Award for excellence in his chosen career and as a role model to future students.

During his 35-year career, Prof Day has worked tirelessly to improve national standards of medical research, teaching and health care. Appointed last year to the prestigious post of Vice-President of the Academy of Medical Sciences (Clinical) – one of the highest honours in UK medicine – Prof Day’s knowledge as a clinician and experience as a university leader is helping to shape the way doctors are trained and patients are treated. He is Deputy Chair of the Executive Committee, Medical Schools Council, which represents the interests and ambitions of UK medical schools – embracing medical undergraduate education, the entirety of health related research and the interface with the health service. He was also the chair of the Clinical Medicine Panel for the Government’s Research Excellence Framework exercise in 2014, is an NIHR Senior Investigator and sits on the Council of the Medical Research Council.

Appreciating the profound effect education can have in improving the life chances of young people

More locally, he is a Non-Executive Director of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which has recently become the only Teaching Hospital ever to receive an “outstanding” rating from the Care Quality Commission. Prof Day described “how proud” he was to be involved with the Trust and that the CQC had highlighted research-informed clinical care as a particular strength.

Determined to enhance the University’s contribution to the understanding and treatment of childhood cancer, Prof Day has led an ambitious plan to build a dedicated centre for this pioneering area of work. The Centre for Childhood Cancer Research will train the next generation of oncologists focused on eradicating the harmful side-effects of current treatments. And it is his commitment to the cause which has seen him involved in many fundraising events which have raised almost £5m towards creating Europe’s leading centre for paediatric oncology at Newcastle University.

Mark I’Anson, chair of Newcastle University’s governing Council and of the appointment panel, added: “Chris’s passion for Newcastle University and the contribution it makes to the lives of staff, students and the city of Newcastle is evident in everything that he does.

“While his experience and research expertise has been founded in medicine, his work in academic leadership and improving the training and development of students and young researchers spans across disciplines.

“He appreciates the profound effect education can have in improving the life chances of young people, because of his own background, and he is committed to building on the strengths of Newcastle University to ensure more people benefit from its work.

“It has been a real privilege to work alongside Chris Brink, who has led the University superbly over the past 9 years, and I know he wishes Chris Day every success as he takes up the role in January 2017. I look forward to working with our new Vice-Chancellor and together continuing the success of this great University.”