Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations BMJ Confidential

Mary Black: Likely to change the rules

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 13 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3704


Mary E Black is a public health doctor. “Tell the truth, and use numbers to help you,” is her philosophy. Raised in Northern Ireland and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, she is currently senior adviser in digital and data science at Public Health England. Her very unusual CV includes establishing a new medical school in far north Queensland, working with the World Health Organization and Unicef in the Balkans, being a salmon judge in Alaska, and starting two successful technology companies. She also worked for the 2012 London Olympics and as a director of public health in London. Black has raised two adventurous children with Ozren Tosic, who saved her from pirates in the Bay of Bengal.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a marine biologist. Jacques Cousteau got his fishhooks into my teenage psyche.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My aunt, Kate Fitzgerald, was an Irish nun and doctor. She ran hospitals in Nigeria and Malawi, did everything from obstetrics to surgery, and sent me the occasional wooden elephant. On her return to Ireland she left the church after clashing with her order on an issue of principle. She coloured her hair red and drove erratically around the Irish countryside in a red car. She was a star among women. And her sister—my mother, Margaret Black—trained as a surgeon …

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