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Feature Profile

Michael Marmot: Putting health inequality on the map

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 07 January 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:b5558
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz, freelance journalist
  1. 1London
  1. zkmietowicz{at}

    Michael Marmot sees his appointment as the next president of the BMA as another way of promoting action on the social determinants of health. Zosia Kmietowicz talks to him about his work

    There is something of Charles Dickens about Michael Marmot. The author and the professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London share a preoccupation with the nuances of society, both dedicating their lives to describing in detail the traits that determine a person’s life, and ultimately their death, and serving them up for public consumption.

    Marmot, who takes up the post of BMA president at the end of June, says he feels a resonance with the author. He read two of Dickens’ novels last year, and the opening of Great Expectations, where Pip stands in a cemetery surveying the gravestones of both his parents and the “five little stone lozenges” that belonged to his brothers brought home to him his life’s work—the social causes of premature death.

    Early calling

    Literature has been a lifelong passion for Marmot. In his first year as a house officer in Sydney, where he gained his medical degree, he did one year of an English literature degree in his spare time, turning up to lectures in blood stained shoes with his bleeper in his pocket. It was a break from clinical medicine, he says, and a diversion that reflects the path his career took.

    Born in north London, Marmot grew up in Sydney “because it wasn’t China.” His father, who had been in Shanghai during the 1920s, returned there in 1948 after the war intending to set up in business. On arriving there, however, he decided that China held too few prospects and moved on to Sydney, where his family joined him.

    Marmot was attracted to medicine because it offered further study …

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