Dr Sarah Walters

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Dear Colleagues,
With great sadness we learned of that our former colleague Dr Sarah Walters died on Sunday 8th April.
Sarah was a remarkable woman. Nobody could meet her without being impressed by her energy, her intelligence and her dedication. She graduated from St. George’s Medical School in 1985 and followed a career in clinical academic public health. In 1994 she created the University of Birmingham Master of Public Health programme. Sarah led the programme for over 10 years, before her retirement in 2006. Her former students include public health specialists, directors and professors of public health across the world. Every Birmingham MPH graduate is a part of her legacy. Sarah was awarded on OBE for services to medicine in 2004.
Sarah lived life to the full. She was a motorbike enthusiast and had the injuries to prove it. She was also a keen skier and a ski instructor. When she retired she bought an 11 acre woodland and along with her husband managed it as a wildlife reserve and amenity. She took up photography and documented the wildlife and seasonal changes in her wood. Sarah did not do anything by halves. By 2014 Alvecote Wood had won the Royal Forestry Society award for best small woodland in England. She also qualified as a personal trainer and joked that since retirement she was doing more for public health than when she was working.
These are achievements that anyone would be proud of but Sarah also suffered from cystic fibrosis. At the age of 12 she was told she might have two years to live. But Sarah had other plans. She decided to study medicine. Initially she was not allowed because of her condition and it was doubted whether she would complete her medical degree. But she persisted and funded by the CF society, became the first person with cystic fibrosis to graduate in medicine. She went on to be the first person with cystic fibrosis to work as a public health consultant and as a clinical academic. She identified life’s most important lessons as never to give up. This was literally true. Staying healthy required her to devote as much time and energy to physical training as a professional athlete. Once asked how she would like to be remembered and Sarah said as somebody who made a difference, not only to the lives of people, but to the planet too. You did Sarah.
K K Cheng FMedSci
Director, Institute of Applied Health Research; Professor of Public Health and Primary Care
University of Birmingham
Learning Centre
Birmingham B15 2TT
Tel: +44 121 414 6757

Author: Claire

PhD Student, International Public Health


2 thoughts on “Dr Sarah Walters”

  1. I met Sarah in 1985 an International CF conference in Budapest. It was a tough conference because at the time there were a lot of very ill patients with CF and I had escaped relatively free of major issues until then. Sarah really impressed me that she had the go in her to undertake medicine most of the other attendees where unemployed I had just started a job as a Statistician with our National Statistics office in Ireland so we had something in common. I was just browsing this morning and wondered how Sarah was doing and discovered her obituary this has saddened me much because I had not been in contact since. I’m not at all surprised that she went on to have a distinguished medical career as she really struck you as a lady that was going somewhere. CF shortened a lot of lives in the early 1990s I have a photograph taken at the international CF conference in 1987 there are only a handful alive today, Much has been achieved since but not without the work of Sarah Walters and Ann Wren who were instrumental in setting up the UK CF adult group.

  2. Sarah was an amazing woman , an inspiration to us all. My lasting moment of her will be very whooping my backside at squash at Good Hope Hospital , whilst gulping down Oxygen to stop her going too blue!
    She personified the best of the human spirit and was an exceptional Public Health Leader.
    You will be very much missed Sarah and it was a privilege to wok with you in your early days.

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