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Observations BMJ Confidential

Peter Sandercock: Worst mistake was hubris

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 14 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5403


Peter Sandercock, 64, professor of medical neurology at Edinburgh, set up the first mega-trial to investigate antithrombotic drugs in acute stroke. It involved nearly 20 000 patients from 500 hospitals in 37 countries. Its results were positive, but he would have published them anyway, being a strong believer in publishing the results of human and animal trials whatever their outcomes. His latest trial, IST-3, was the largest ever trial of the clot busting drug alteplase for acute stroke.

What was your earliest ambition?

To do something worthwhile with my life.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Three people: David Shepherd, the neurologist who showed me that epidemiology was a much preferable alternative to lab based research (at which I’m a dismal failure), as I had to do research to have a chance of getting a consultant job; Charles Warlow, for showing clinicians that the best way to resolve uncertainties was with randomised clinical trials; and Richard Peto, for blowing me away with the persuasive power of big numbers.

What was the worst mistake in your career?

Hubris. The success of the first International Stroke Trial …

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