Intended for healthcare professionals


Denise Coia: mental health champion and chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 22 May 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2067
  1. Penny Warren
  1. London, UK
  1. Penny.Warren{at}
Credit: Healthcare Improvement Scotland

In 1987 Denise Coia became a consultant clinical psychiatrist in the deprived Gorbals area of south Glasgow. Passionate about mental health, she was determined to transform its Cinderella status and put it on the same footing as cancer or orthopaedic surgery. She spent the next 30 years working in Glasgow and spearheaded numerous initiatives to raise standards in Scotland and beyond. The chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, John Crichton, said, “Denise’s extraordinary contribution to psychiatry, as well as to the wider medical profession, can only be described as unmatched.”

Early life and training

A much loved only child, Coia was born in 1952 and brought up in Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow. Her father, Joe, and her glamorous mother, Jill, were of Italian and Welsh descent, respectively, and ran the local fish and chip restaurant, where Coia would sometimes take schoolfriends back for tea. She went to Notre Dame School for Girls, where she enjoyed singing and tennis, and, rather to the surprise of some, opted to study medicine.

Coia attended the …

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