Dr Martin Griffiths CBE
Meet Dr Martin Griffiths CBE, consultant vascular, endovascular and trauma surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust, alumnus of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry 1991, honorary clinical senior lecturer at the Blizard Institute, and National Clinical Director for Violence Reduction NHS England and Clinical Director for Violence Reduction NHS London.
1. Could you tell us about your clinical work and what inspired you to get into this area of medicine?
My clinical time is divided between vascular and trauma surgery, with an additional role as a surgical tutor for the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
I got into vascular because it’s technically challenging. Both elective and emergency vascular surgery require strong decision-making skills serving an informed patient population.
Trauma surgery is rarely as adrenaline fuelled as the media suggests. I was attracted to the discipline working with Michael Walsh, a Barts Health consultant, and considered by many to be one of the great figures in British trauma care. His insight, intellect and compassion for his patients inspired me to become a better version of me.
We support the victims of injury, coordinating their care with multiple clinical teams addressing the physical and emotional impact of traumatic injury. The surgery is challenging and time-sensitive, often operating on critically unwell patients requiring the expertise of superbly talented anaesthetic and theatre staff. The joy of working within a high-functioning, motivated and compassionate team is incredibly fulfilling.
2. You have so many strings to your bow it's hard to know where to start, but you were just awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2021 for your role in violence reduction, and in 2019 you were appointed London’s first NHS clinical director for violence reduction, a role you now hold nationally. Could you tell us more about this incredible work?
The violence reduction work came out of a dissatisfaction with the revolving door of injury and reinjury I saw in patients who were the victims of interpersonal injury. As a black man of modest origin I felt that the system failed to address the needs of a patient population overepresented by people who were poorer and of colour and I was determined to find a better solution. I’ve worked with communities and schools to promote empowerment and raise and deliver expectations and I won a scholarship to travel to the US to study violence reduction in urban environments. I returned filled with the belief that we could build a model of care that would address the needs of our communities and would support them and their families as we delivered world class clinical care. In 2015 I set up the UK's first hospital ward-based violence reduction service, at Barts Health. The service works with victims injured through knife crime while they are still being treated in the hospital, and works to unravel the complex social reasons behind knife crime as well as offering holistic support to help prevent further harm. It has had incredible success in reducing retaliation and violent reoffending in this group of vulnerable young people. In six years, this has reduced the number of young people returning to The Royal London Hospital with further injuries from 45% to less than 1%.
I built on this drive to expand the programme to multiple hospitals and linked with the Trust to support initiatives aimed directly at increasing diversity within the healthcare workforce.
I was fortunate enough to be appointed the first regional Clinical Director for Violence Reduction in London, and this programme expanded to deliver multidimensional approaches to reducing violence. I was appointed as the first National Clinical Director for Violence Reduction in 2020 and am relishing the challenge.
3. Tell us a bit about your educational and training background and what advice would you give to a student wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I grew up in south East London (up the Addicks) and went to my lovely state primary and comprehensive schools. I was inspired by a fabulous primary school teacher Mr Basil Morgan, who sadly died before I had the opportunity to thank him for the example he set me as a child. He was a talented and deeply respected educator who never spoke of his diversity, but challenged and inspired me to be all I could be.
I trained at Barts (the best and obvious choice) and trained in the North East Thames rotation. The journey was long and arduous, however it was filled with humour, compassion, hard work and brilliant allies.
I would say, don’t follow in my footsteps, make your own. The path is unknown and often intimidating, however the qualities that got you to the start will be enhanced by the journey. Never forsake your integrity to fit in, and wear your authenticity with pride. On the path you’ll find allies everywhere, some less perfect than others, however take that advice and support. It will help you. Finally, remember that failure is something you must embrace and learn from if you are to grow, so don’t let poor outcomes deter you from your goal.