Challenging ideas about health from his experience as a doctor, scientist and patient, as one of the longest surviving people with HIV.
Rupert Whitaker is a doctor and scientist, lecturing at universities and conferences worldwide, as well as appearing as an expert medical witness in courts internationally. But his real expertise comes from his experiences as a patient.
He’s one of the longest surviving people with HIV and, over the last 37 years, has also been treated for heart-disease, cancer, stroke and epilepsy after surgery on a brain-abnormality. On three occasions he’s been given less than six months to live but, thanks to a potent mix of iron-will, determination, and luck, he’s still here.
Rupert has been a tenacious advocate for people with terminal and chronic illnesses from an early age. At 19, following the death of his partner Terry from AIDS, he was a founder of the Terrence Higgins Trust, Europe’s first HIV and sexual health charity. He then undertook 14 years of training as a doctor of psychiatry and immunology in the USA. During that time he also presented papers at International AIDS Conferences that led to changes in immigration and public health laws in the USA, after he was threatened with being deported for having HIV.
More recently, he founded the Tuke Institute, an international research and development organisation translating human science to medicine, turning his expertise into solutions by pulling apart the traditional and re-forming it into something new that’s not just workable, but works for every patient.
That creativity is based in real life: when he had a stroke at 30, it left him with difficulties in walking, moving, seeing, speaking, and thinking. Trying to learn to speak properly again, instead of traditional therapy, he started by learning to sing. It was so successful, he not only learned to speak fluently again, he then spent eight years as a semi-professional opera-singer. (Despite being able to sing operas in seven languages, he still has a memory like a goldfish.)
That combination of medical and scientific background, on top of his experiences as a patient, has created a unique insight that drives his work advising health-services and health-tech companies on how to get patients well…and keep us well.
Over the past 35 years he has been the subject of numerous interviews and profiles in the UK and USA, for media including The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Daily Mirror and Radio Times as well as all the major radio and TV channels, plus the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour (now PBS Newshour), Panorama, Horizon, and several documentaries and books on 20th century social history, including Good As You by Paul Flynn.
Rupert’s presentations feel to me more like conversations and they invariably foster a sense of meaningful interaction…Whether at a large conference venue or an intimate fundraising event, audiences can’t help but be won over by his easy, persuasive style, his unique experience and insights, and even by his occasional well-placed provocations. American Express UK.
To say Rupert is impressive would be a significant understatement. His presence and command of the room was palpable and it was noticeable that all 500 guests were in the palm of his hand. His pace, tone and delivery of his speech content was profound and entirely engaging. Rupert is one of those rare people that leave the podium leaving everyone wanting to hear more! Social Smile.
Image copyright: Copyright @ Rupert Whitaker
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