Professor Heather Cubie elected as new Scotland Malawi Partnership Chair

7 Jun 2019
Heather Cubie in Nkhoma.jpg

Professor Heather Cubie MBE has been elected as the new Scotland Malawi Partnership Chair by the Board of Directors.

Heather’s role as Chair will succeed Rev Professor Ken Ross who is stepping down after 11 successful years in the post. Ken’s departure has been timed to enable him to return to live and work in Malawi where he will take up a senior role with the Church of Scotland. In order to provide a smooth succession, Prof Ross will provide support for a time as co-Chair.

A former NHS consultant clinical scientist, Heather is currently a senior advisor to the Global Health Academy and an Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh. She is also actively involved in the Scottish Global Health Collaborative as a volunteer champion for retired healthcare staff.

Professionally, Heather has been instrumental in the creation of a national HPV Reference Laboratory to complement the national introduction of the HPV vaccine in Scotland and changes to the cervical screening programme. She also set up a Scotland-wide network of HPV investigators and established a national sample archive – a combination of which has meant that Scotland is a world leader in vaccine effectiveness and HPV expertise.

Since retirement, Heather has been actively involved in cervical cancer screening and treatment in Malawi, which has one of the highest incidences and the highest mortality of cervical cancer in the world.

A Scottish Government grant from 2013-2016 allowed Heather and colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and across NHS Scotland to establish a same day ‘screen and treat’ programme in NKhoma CCAP Hospital, which reached 17,000 women who had never been able to access cervical screening and led to 70% of women with early lesions receiving same day treatment.

With her colleague Dr Christine Campbell as lead, Heather was also awarded a Scottish Government grant from 2018-2023 to expand the successful Nkhoma CCAP Hospital programme to other regions of Malawi, together with development of a mentoring programme which should result in a sustainable national network of screening providers.

In keeping with the SMP’s Partnership Principles, Heather is passionate about the respectful and truly reciprocal partnership developed with Nkhoma CCAP Hospital in Malawi, and this has led to close involvement with the SMP, and her membership of the Board.

The post of SMP Chair is voluntary and unpaid and Standing Orders provide for the Board Chair is to be elected for a three-year term, with the possibility of being re-elected for a second term.

Professor Heather Cubie MBE said: “It is a great privilege to have been elected to succeed Ken as Chair of the Scotland Malawi Partnership. I echo Ken’s words in saying that SMP is one of the most exciting and effective organisations with which I have been associated, largely due to the commitment, enthusiasm and drive of the small team, supported by the Board and the membership.

“Ken’s hard work and dedication over many years will be an exceptionally hard act to follow, but I will do my best, recognising that I am but one cog in a continually evolving organisation, which constantly strives to deliver on the principles of dignified and respectful partnerships between Malawi and Scotland.”

Rev Prof Ken Ross OBE said: "In a 21st century world where there are many forces driving us apart, the Scotland Malawi Partnership has had the opposite effect – bringing the people of our two nations together in common purpose. Chairing the Board of the SMP has been a thrilling experience and I pay tribute to the Board members and staff who have worked together to create something exceptional."

SMP Chief Executive David Hope-Jones OBE said: “As a distinguished clinical scientist, who is highly regarded both in Scotland and Malawi, Professor Heather Cubie brings a wealth of experience to this role.

“She is a long-time champion of the dignified people-to-people model which characterises the bilateral relationship and has been an active Director on the SMP’s Board for many years.

“Heather has her own long-standing links with Malawi, including a highly impactful Scottish Government funded project supporting cervical cancer screening in Malawi. I very much look forward to working with Heather as Chair.”