Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones is the founder and director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, the only NHS service designated for the treatment of pathological gamblers, now in its tenth year. She runs a gambling disorders research group and has been the recipient of Medical Research Council grants and a Wolfson Fellowship, as well as several prizes and awards. Henrietta is a neuroscience researcher, a medical doctor specialising in addiction psychiatry, an honorary clinical senior lecturer at the Department of Medicine, Imperial College, as well as being president elect of the Medical Women’s Federation.
“…This is a special time for women in medicine in the UK as so many of the Royal Colleges and other organisations have female leaders…”
Social and professional experience
Becoming an addiction psychiatrist was a natural progression from having always been so interested in understanding the vulnerabilities of the human mind.
I grew up in Italy and spent my childhood and teenage years in the middle of a heroin epidemic. I saw many friends ending up either dead or in rehab because of their own individual vulnerabilities to becoming addicted.
My neuroscience M.D. research at Imperial was on decision making in addiction, with a focus on ventromedial prefrontal cortex impairment. It was this specific research combined with years of running the inpatient detox and the homeless addictions units that led me to identify the field of pathological gambling as my preferred area of interest.
Passion for research
Research has always been important to me. I have published extensively on behavioural addictions in research journals, edited three textbooks and regularly lecture at national and international level on the neuroscience and clinical aspects of behavioural addictions. I am now in the process of writing about my experiences as an addictions psychiatrist for a book which will be published by Virago.
From the National Problem Gambling Clinic (the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust) , the only NHS clinic designated to the treatment of pathological gamblers, we regularly publish data on the illness and what we find in our patients.
The area of behavioural addictions as a whole is one in which I work at international level. I have roles on committees such as the Board of the International Society of Addiction Medicine.
I think it is important not to lose sight of international work when you are privileged in working at the forefront of a small medical field. The benefits are both for one’s own clinical work but also for others, as our global knowledge comes together to benefit our patients’ treatment. This is definitely the case with the WHO [World Health Organization] work and the gaming addiction meetings.
A supportive network with a public voice
My involvement with the Medical Women’s Federation (MWF) is a major commitment in my career as I firmly believe we need to support our colleagues in their career development. We need to have a public voice in relation to gender pay gap issues, sexual harassment at work and other issues that are brought to our attention, not only by our female medics but also by the media.
The officers at MWF are a close-knit group of highly established doctors and this makes the role fun, as well as productive for the organisation. It’s our centenary this year, which has been a really important as it has allowed us to celebrate with all the members from across the UK, and indeed the world, who joined us in several locations, including the House of Lords.
Now we are focusing on increasing our membership further and providing mentoring across the country to all female doctors who feel they will benefit. We are raising funds through donations and fundraising so that we can give a lot of it away to fellowships, bursaries and prizes as well as using it to subsidise our yearly meetings so that younger trainee doctors are able to attend.
This is a special time for women in medicine in the UK as so many of the Royal Colleges and other organisations have female leaders. This is a unique opportunity. These are the role models our younger members can aspire to follow. We must keep pushing forward. We owe a lot to our current leading female medics and they in turn support MWF by attending our meetings and speaking at our conferences.