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Richard Harries (1969, Mathematics)

Richard is a partly retired consultant radiologist, and a volunteer doctor for community first responder schemes. He is currently planning to take part in a solo row across the Atlantic.

Dr Richard Harries, a partly retired consultant radiologist.

Taking up other challenges has become an important part of my life now…

I didn’t really expect to be accepted into Oxford – my memory is that my interviews with various colleges weren’t brilliant, but I was delighted to be accepted by Exeter because my father had also been an Exeter student. I loved living in the College. My room-mate, Tony Craven, was a very-down-to-earth Lancashire lad, and we had plenty of fun. I soon learned that the big jugs of milk on the breakfast table had a layer of delicious cream at the top, so we used to go early to breakfast!

Apart from studying hard I spent time playing the college piano, playing table tennis, and learning Taekwondo. My tutor was the excellent Dermot Roaf, who I found a little intimidating but an excellent teacher. Towards the end of first year I decided that I wanted to study medicine and discussed this with Dr Roaf. It was too late to secure a place in the Oxford medical school, and so I was accepted in Cardiff. I have never regretted my decision and have enjoyed an exciting and challenging career, but I always retained my love of mathematics and of Exeter.

Medicine was very hard to start with, mainly because human anatomy was a mystery, but I made good progress. I hated being a student on the hospital wards, however – always waiting for some junior doctor to teach us and feeling in the way of the ward nurses. So I struggled through the three clinical years, failed exams one year and had to resit, took a year off to go to India and Pakistan, and eventually passed my final exams in 1977. By then I was married and expecting my first child, so life was very busy. However, I thoroughly enjoyed being useful at last, and revelled in the work as a junior doctor.

I spent nearly a year as an anatomy prosector, which was excellent training for my future career. Eight months in general and cardiac surgery convinced me that surgery and a happy family life were incompatible, so I chose a radiology consultant post in Grimsby after five years of training. The last thirty years have seen some of the most exciting developments in imaging, and I spent much of it practising Interventional Radiology – a subspecialty combining imaging with surgical techniques. I also made good use of my love of mathematics by completing an MD research degree into a complex inherited disease using Bayes’ Theorem.

I retired from full-time work at sixty, but continue to work part-time in the hospital and report x-ray examinations at home. My wife and I bought a derelict windmill in 2008 and spent six years renovating it, largely through our own handiwork. Taking up other challenges has become an important part of my life now: I’ve done seven London Marathons, a Bear Grylls survival course in Scotland, climbed Kilimanjaro, and last year walked solo from Land’s End to John o’Groats. My next great challenge will be rowing solo across the Atlantic, which I am preparing to do in 2020 while raising money for the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance.

You can find out more about Richard’s upcoming row here.