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Professor Dinesh Bhugra receives honorary degree from the University of East London

Students in audience at graduation

One of the world's most distinguished psychiatrists awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science

One of the world’s most distinguished advocates in the field of psychiatry, Professor Dinesh Bhugra CBE, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of East London.

In response, Professor Bhugra, 68, said, “It feels like my graduation again and I’m really delighted to join all of you on this wonderful day.”

Shabir Randeree, chancellor of the University, conferred the title upon Dinesh at the ceremony, at ExCeL London, on 29 November – a date that resonated with the recipient, who was born in India.

Professor Bhugra said, “It was 29 November when I first landed in the UK, 3.30pm in the afternoon at Heathrow, pitch-dark, and the thought that went through my mind was – where have I landed?

“Forty years ago when I arrived I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be standing here today in front of you receiving this honorary degree.”

Currently, the 67-year-old is emeritus professor of mental health and cultural diversity at King’s College London and honorary consultant at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

He is the first UK-based psychiatrist to be voted president of the World Psychiatric Association, a post he held from 2014 to 2017. While there, he developed a bill of rights for people with mental illness which was launched in the House of Lords in October 2016. He was president of the British Medical Association 2018-2019 and president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2008-2011.

Professor Bhugra said the honour was particularly special because it was conferred by a University with a strong history of research in psychology, which had contributed to greater social justice for those who suffered from mental health issues. 

It is a cause he has advanced in all of the offices he has held. He has argued that mental health services should be seamless – delivered in the places where those who suffer can be found. He also says the inadequate level of funding and access – the mental health gap – should be met with a response that matches the magnitude of the need.

Many of the students were graduating from the University’s College of Applied Health and Communities. He told them, “We have a big fight ahead of us. A civilised society is judged by the way it looks after its vulnerable people.

“If we, as health professionals and graduates, cannot stand up and advocate for our patients, for those who are vulnerable and for those who need our help, then we need to think about our roles again.

“We need to strengthen society, we need to fight for funding for mental health research, we need to fight for equity between physical health and mental health, and we need to ensure that our health services get the resources they need.”

And he had a special final word for graduates – received to cheers: “The only piece of advice I would give you: never grow up. Always, always have fun, no matter what you’re doing. And if you’re doing a job that doesn’t give you fun – change the job.”

Picture credit: Tempest Photography