Acclaimed Scottish author speaks out on women's wellbeing

The University of Aberdeen will welcome Scottish crime writer Val McDermid to a special event to raise money in support of women's health.

Val McDermid, internationally acclaimed for her noir-ish thrillers, is the special guest at a lunch, organised jointly by the University and the charity Wellbeing of Women.

Val McDermid is a long-term supporter of the charity which is dedicated to finding cures and treatments across the breadth of female reproductive health.

The event, to be held at Elphinstone Hall, King’s College on November 1, will also showcase the work of the University of Aberdeen in improving women’s health.

A new Centre for Women’s Health Research is one of the cornerstones of the University’s fundraising activities.

The institution has ambitious plans for a centre of excellence to be based in the forthcoming £167 million Baird Family Hospital within the Foresterhill health campus. It will provide a unique opportunity to embed pioneering clinical research alongside medical care.

Aberdeen has championed the transformation of women’s health care for decades, building upon the legacy of Regius Professor of Midwifery, Professor Sir Dugald Baird, whose pioneering vision of interdisciplinary and integrated health and social care transformed reproductive health services in the city in the 1930s. He established the Aberdeen Maternity and Neonatal Databank (AMND) which still supports research studies around the world.

Wellbeing of Women also boasts a long track record in supporting many aspects of women’s health including pregnancy and childbirth, fertility, gynaecological cancers, and overlooked areas such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and the menopause.

Many of the routine tests and treatments that form everyday clinical practice can be traced back to the organisation’s work, such as the use of ultrasound in pregnancy and the importance of taking folic acid.

The charity also funded Professor Henry Kitchener, who linked HPV to cervical cancer which led to the HPV vaccination programme in schools, making cervical cancer preventable for the first time.

At the event, Val McDermid will discuss her concerns about female wellbeing, both on and off the pages of her novels, and will give the audience an insight into her latest work, Broken Ground.

She will also explain how one audience member, Shirley Tulloch, came to feature in the book after winning a prize at another event to become a named character.

She said: “I always enjoy a warm welcome in Aberdeen, so I'm looking forward to this lunch in the historic university precinct. I'll be sharing stories about my life and work, and particularly my new book, Broken Ground.

“Most importantly, though, the funds raised will contribute to Wellbeing of Women’s research into women’s health. I’ve supported their work for a number of years because what they do is vital for women, their families and all our futures.”

Caroline Inglis, Secretary to the University of Aberdeen, said the event would provide an opportunity for two organisations with a commitment to improving women’s health to come together.

“We are delighted to welcome Val McDermid to the University and to be able to share with her, and our guests, a flavour of the important work underway at the University and through the charity Wellbeing of Women,” she said.

“Aberdeen has a strong track record in this area and we are proud to continue the legacy of Dugald Baird who recognised not only the importance of supporting women’s health but the vital role that it plays in the health of generations to come.

“Events like this will help us to continue that important work and to build relationships with another organisation dedicated to the wellbeing of women.”

Tina Weaver, CEO of Wellbeing of Women added:  “Wellbeing of Women is extremely fortunate to have Val’s support. Women’s health is too often overlooked, and to have a prolific writer champion this area greatly helps us in raising awareness.

“With 12 babies still dying every day at or around the time of birth in the UK, and 21 women dying every day from a gynaecological cancer, it is an area which urgently needs more investment to find better treatments and cures. We have many doctors carrying out pioneering research in Scotland. Almost every woman will suffer from a gynaecological condition at some stage in her life yet it is a vastly underfunded area.  

“I hope the event today at University of Aberdeen helps shine a spotlight on women’s health issues and helps enable more open discussions about taboo topics like incontinence and the menopause so that women everywhere know they are not suffering alone.”