Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations BMJ Confidential

Khalid Khan: Cricketer in chief

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 25 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4862


Khalid Saeed Khan is professor of women’s health and clinical epidemiology at Barts and the London School of Medicine. Born in Pakistan in 1965, he was one of the first medical students to enter the Aga Khan University in Karachi when it opened in 1983. Higher training at McMaster University in Canada led him to an academic career, focusing on patient oriented research. He has contributed to many trials and meta-analyses and is the lead author of Systematic Reviews to Support Evidence-Based Medicine, which won a BMA Medical Book award and aims to help clinicians incorporate evidence into practice. His Core Outcomes in Women’s and Newborn Health (CROWN) initiative was awarded a BMA Strutt and Harper grant to help reduce research waste. Since 2012 he has been editor in chief of BJOG.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a cricketer. But dabbling in analysis of its results earned me more fame than playing the game.1

What was your best career move?

Arriving in east London, UK, where the environment was suited to shaping developments in women’s health.

What was the worst mistake in your career?

Taking credit for good outcomes instead of recognising natural variations in the course of an illness. For example: laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation (LUNA) was the gynaecologists’ favourite cure for chronic pelvic pain early in my career, but trials involving repeated pain measurements showed that high pain scores preceding laparoscopy dropped on follow-up, regardless of whether LUNA was performed.2 What we saw as an effect in our personal case series was merely a regression to the mean, after patients had presented for care at the time of heightened symptoms.

How is your work-life balance?

Improving, as I learn to focus on the things that matter most.

How do you keep fit and healthy?

Mindfulness meditation, 10-20-30 interval training, and Argentine tango.

What single change would you like to see made to the NHS?

We don’t offer enough opportunities to patients for participating in clinical research. “Proportions of patients taking part in research” should be introduced as a care quality benchmark alongside waiting times and other targets.

What do you wish that you had known when you were younger?

Research findings on attraction and persuasion, which I published in a systematic review on online dating and in a related book.34

Do doctors get paid enough?

We get more than the average in our society. I’m not sure that it’s enough to make us happy.

To whom would you most like to apologise?

Ben Mol, for leaving his car in need of a deep clean during my 2007 Spinoza scholarship at the University of Amsterdam.

What do you usually wear to work?

Old jeans and even older T shirts.

Which living doctor do you most admire, and why?

Iain Chalmers, for making us realise that health research is for the sake of society, not just for the sake of science.

What is the worst job you have done?

Research janitor, cleaning up after researchers behaving badly.

What single unheralded change has made the most difference in your field in your lifetime?

Magnesium sulphate in eclampsia.

What new technology or development are you most looking forward to?

Primary prevention of prematurity—although I’m unlikely to see this happen in my lifetime, as obstetricians continue to obsess about deploying fancy tests that show no sign of making the slightest dent in preterm birth rates.5 One day someone will notice that the antenatal screening emperor has no clothes on.

What book should every doctor read?

Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg, to learn about compassion.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Cohiba cigars dipped in single malt.

Where are or when were you happiest?

On my sabbatical at the University of Granada, Andalusia.

What television programmes do you like?

Narcos, The Sopranos, Spooks, and the like.

What personal ambition do you still have?

To be editor of a women’s health journal that doubles as a magazine at corner shops.

Summarise your personality in three words

Bohemian, approachable, relentless (as colleagues have said in 360° feedback).

What is your pet hate?

Repetition in text of data that are in tables and figures.

What would be on the menu for your last supper?

Ugali and nyama choma with kachumbari (east African-style maize, meat, and salsa).

What poem, song, or passage of prose would you like mourners at your funeral to hear?

Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango.

Is the thought of retirement a dream or a nightmare?

If retirement means the onset of Alzheimer’s, then a nightmare for those around me.

If you weren’t in your present position what would you be doing instead?

Cooking asado (Argentine barbecue) to enjoy with friends, along with a bottle of Malbec from Mendoza.


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