De Evelyn Ferguson receives William Cullen Prize

Prestigious recognition...for Dr Evelyn Ferguson, who was presented with the William Cullen Prize by Royal College membership secretary Professor Andrew Collier.
Prestigious recognition...for Dr Evelyn Ferguson, who was presented with the William Cullen Prize by Royal College membership secretary Professor Andrew Collier.

A senior Lanarkshire doctor has been awarded the prestigious Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh William Cullen Prize for training medical students and her dedication to patients.

Dr Evelyn Ferguson, who is NHS Lanarkshire’s lead clinical trainer for obstetrics and gynaecology, has established a comprehensive teaching programme at the University Hospital Wishaw.

This gives medical students a personal timetable to experience the practical challenges of the field, while complementing their work with daily tutorials delivered by the students to their peers.

Students also attend a clinical skills and simulation day where they are able to lead the management of patients with deteriorating conditions.

Some of Dr Ferguson’s trainees even made a short video about their training.

In addition to her work with NHS Lanarkshire, Dr Ferguson has developed a number of training courses.

They include CompOp which helps to develop confidence with complex operative delivery – offered to all Scottish trainees.

Dr Ferguson hopes that her training programmes and courses will help NHS Lanarkshire train and retain high calibre obstetricians and gynaecologists.

She said: “I am extremely honoured to receive The William Cullen Prize.

“I never expected to receive a prize for doing a part of my job that I love but to have been nominated by my peers is humbling and I’m very grateful.

“To receive such recognition from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh helps us attract talented students, trainees and consultants to our department.

“I work hard to foster an ethos of learning in our department but could not do this alone and am very ably assisted by my dedicated colleagues.

“Indeed, we won the NES Team of the Year 2018 prize at the recent awards.

“I also wanted to say that the William Cullen Prize is a beautiful award and the story behind the letter I received was fascinating.

“I look forward to looking further into the College’s archive in Edinburgh to read more cases this eminent physician was involved in.”

Lanarkshire-born William Cullen (1710-1790) was the most influential medical lecturer of his generation and drew thousands of students to the Edinburgh Medical School.

As the pre-eminent Scottish medical figure of his day, Cullen’s opinion was in high demand and people wrote to him from around the world requesting his advice on treatments.

Cullen’s private consultations survive as a remarkable archive of several thousand letters which can be found at

The award was presented to Dr Ferguson at the annual NHS Lanarkshire staff awards earlier this month.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh – also known as the College – created the William Cullen Prize in 2016 to recognise excellence in teaching or service innovation at a regional level.

The college is an independent standard-setting body and professional membership organisation.

It aims to improve and maintain the quality of patient care while helping qualified doctors pursue careers in specialist (internal) medicine through medical examinations, education and training.

It also provides resources and information to support and facilitate professional development for physicians throughout their careers.

A spokeswoman said: “The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh has members and Fellows all over the world but this prize particularly recognises excellence in service innovation at a local level.

“Dr Ferguson deserves the Cullen Prize for improving the quality of the training medical trainees receive in Lanarkshire, with an innovative programme designed to help them gain confidence in complex operative delivery and other vital aspects of being an obstetrician and gynaecologist.

“This, ultimately, will help trainees become better equipped to assist patients at hospitals across Lanarkshire and further afield.”

Sometimes it is best to hear from the trainees themselves about what they think is important.

Dr Ferguson’s trainees made a short video about their training which can be viewed at

Students who shaped the world

William Cullen was more than just a doctor or physician, he was also a chemist and agriculturalist and a central figure in the Scottish Enlightenment.

Many of his students would, quite literally, go on to change the world in the 18th and 19th century, with many of their acts still being felt today.

Physician and chemist Joseph Black, who later became Cullen’s colleague and was principal physician to King George III in Scotland, discovered magnesium, latent heat, specific heat and carbon dioxide.

Physician, politician, social reformer, humanitarian and educator Benjamin Rush was a Founding Father of the United States who signed the Declaration of Independence.

A founding member of the American Philosophical Society, John Morgan founded the first medical school in the American colonies – the Medical School at the College of Philadelphia.

Botanist, geologist, chemist and physician William Withering discovered digitalis, an active ingredient of the foxglove plant, for the treatment of congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias.

Physician Sir Gilbert Blane instituted health reform in the Royal Navy and established a fund for the encouragement of naval medical science with gold medals still presented annually in his name.

Physician and philanthropist John Coakley Lettsom founded the Medical Society of London in 1773, believing a combined membership of physicians, surgeons and apothecaries would prove productive.

Physician John Brown created the Brunonian system which treated disorders caused by defective or excessive excitation – now largely ignored by western medicine.