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Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Carla Valentine

Meet Carla Valentine, our Pathology Museum Technical Curator & Public Engagement Officer

Picture of Carla Valentine holding a skull

Q.1 Can you describe your career path, current role and what attracted you to work at Queen Mary?

I wanted to work 'with the dead' from a very young age; specifically as an assistant to a Pathologist. As a child, I didn't even know what the term for that vocation was, but later I discovered it was an Anatomical Pathology Technologist (or APT for short.) It may seem like an odd career choice for a child who hasn't even reached double-digits yet, but I loved biology from an early age and talk about how I ended up going down that route in my first book 'Past Mortems.'

I worked as an APT for about a decade, even assisting some very high profile cases such as the 7/7 London bombings, but eventually I was carrying out a higher percentage of admin and managerial work than I wanted. I therefore decided to take a voluntary redundancy, started writing a book, and looked for new challenges in terms of my full-time work. I was absolutely thrilled when I saw the Pathology Museum job advertised by Queen Mary, as I was familiar with all the anatomy museums in the country by that point and had never even heard of one at Barts! It was very hands-on, in terms of conservation of pathology specimens, and was exactly what I wanted. 

Q.2 How has your personal identity(ies) intersected with your work and role at Queen Mary?

The fact that I'd always wanted to work with the dead, and had invested so much time in research, studying and gaining experience in the area, means that this kind of work is all I've ever really known. It's therefore a huge part of my personal identity. Outside of my Queen Mary hours I work on television, write articles for publications like The Guardian, and give talks/teach workshops. I even got married in a cemetery (a beautiful log cabin strung with fairy lights, in Bristol) and when my husband proposed to me he built a grave in our living room and asked me to dig for my was hidden in a skull! There was no way I would have said "no"!! It's fair to say my work at QM and my personal life correlate hugely.

Q.3 What does Equality, Diversity and Inclusion mean to you and how important is Queen Mary's EDI work to you as a staff member and your sense of belonging at Queen Mary?

EDI is incredibly important to me as I believe everyone should be treated equally and fairly. My line manager is on the EDI Steering Group so the thread runs through everything we're trying to achieve at the Pathology Museum and helps inform my sense of belonging within the team.

Interestingly I experienced fewer negative issues in this area a decade ago than I do now, and that is more to do with a change in local stakeholders who are not part of QMUL and are therefore not familiar with everything the EDI mission statement is attempting to address. It's my opinion that more work needs to be done to include outside consultants and stakeholders in conversations about all Queen Mary values, particularly one as important as EDI

Q.4 What one piece of advice or information would be you give to others in the Queen Mary community to help them foster an inclusive environment and / or be an effective ally?

Encourage discourse! As the technical curator of a historical medical collection it's inevitable that I will come across specimens labelled with 'pathologies' that we may now consider incorrect, or which are described by terminology which is not acceptable in a modern vocabulary, medical or otherwise. These may be terms related to a person's ethnicity, for example, or an out-of-date term for what we now consider a mental illness. One example may be 'hysterical', used to describe the symptoms of what is recorded to be a female. In these instances, it's important to keep the old labelling and display it along with the new terminology, with a short description as to why both are on display, maybe accompanied by a longer examination online, accessible via QR code or similar. That way we can explain why the descriptors have changed, what may be incorrect and offensive about the previous terminology, and even predict patterns of future change. An example of this, linking to the phrase 'hysterical', is the push to have use of the word 'hormonal' examined, and certainly encourage its removal as a medical descriptor because it is inaccurate and outdated.

To learn more about Carla and have a look at her bestselling novels, please visit:



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