Bristol: a place of welcome and possibility

Above left to right: Dr Radha Giridharan, senior paediatric neurologist; Dr Arthur Rose; Thomas Robb; Dr Geetha Chari, paediatric neurologist and epileptologist at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Emeritus Professor of Neurology and Paediatrics Dr Arthur Rose (MBChB 1957) tells Nonesuch why he still finds his alma mater inspiring.

Dr Arthur Rose first came to Bristol in 1951, and the University and the city have remained in his heart and mind ever since. Following an esteemed medical career – including winning the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Child Neurology Society – Dr Rose currently resides in New York City where he is still active at State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

‘As a child Holocaust survivor, and subsequently as a refugee from the communist regime in Poland, I have a debt of gratitude to the British people and to the University of Bristol, for the education I received there at no cost to me. The seven years I spent in Bristol, as a student and house physician, were some of the happiest of my life and I look back at that period with great pleasure and gratitude. While studying hard at Bristol I was also able to participate in the many social and sports activities offered by the Students’ Union. I made lifelong friends and took advantage of all opportunities that I could, including spending time as a visiting student at the Copenhagen Medical School and at St Bart’s in London. My Bristol degree opened many academic doors for me including at Harvard, Montreal Neurological Institute, Columbia University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.’

I am thankful for my Bristol education and grateful for the scholarship that paid for it.

At just 12 years of age Arthur lost his parents, aunts and uncles during the Holocaust. He and his sister only survived the war by being hidden by Christian friends of their parents. Eventually Arthur and his sister were able to join a group of Jewish orphans who were allowed to leave communist Poland and emigrate to the UK. The siblings went to stay with a relative in London. Having joined school in the UK with no English and his schooling prior to that ‘in a shambles’ due to the war, it is remarkable how dedicated and tenacious Arthur was about furthering his education. On leaving school in the UK at the age of 16 Arthur joined an importing business, but it didn’t inspire him. His relationship with two Polish relatives, a gynaecologist and a urologist, helped him decide on a career in medicine. With fierce determination Arthur applied himself to acquiring the necessary A-level grades in Physics, Chemistry and Biology by attending a summer cram course and a year of technical college. After multiple rejections Arthur was accepted by the University of Bristol Medical School where he was awarded full fees and a maintenance scholarship.

After completing his medical degree at Bristol Dr Rose worked as a senior house officer in a children’s hospital in London before travelling to the USA for further training. In Boston his interest in paediatric neurology flourished. After finishing his paediatric and neurology residency, and three postgraduate research fellowship years, Dr Rose was appointed to the faculty at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. There, his federally supported research focused on the neurological disorders of newborn infants caused by neurotoxic agents. In 1975 he was invited to organise the Division of Paediatric Neurology at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. He remained there as Professor of Neurology and Paediatrics for 40 years. Dr Rose is acknowledged as one of the leading experts in this area, both in terms of clinical research and as a clinician.

Since 2007, Dr Rose has funded an exchange programme for medical students, between the University of Bristol and SUNY Downstate. Each year one Bristol medical student gets to spend eight weeks at SUNY Downstate and one student from SUNY Downstate spends eight weeks at Bristol. One of the recent recipients Thomas Robb has told Nonesuch how much he valued the experience and what he learned about Dr Rose’s speciality of paediatric neurology.

In addition to funding the scholarship programme Dr Rose has also committed a legacy to support the Master of Research programme at Bristol. ‘I am delighted to be leaving a legacy for the MRes at Bristol. I find this programme to be highly innovative, well-structured and ideal for ambitious students interested in an academic career.’

Thomas Robb (BSc 2014, MBChB 2019)

‘Getting accepted onto Dr Rose’s paediatric neurology scholarship programme was a wonderful experience for me. There’s just no way I would have had this chance otherwise, I could never have funded it myself.

I’m so grateful for this opportunity and I was treated so well. I’d never been to New York either, so it was fantastic to be based there. It’s quite rare for a student from the UK to get to do American hospital visits and the US medical system is completely different.

I spent six weeks in paediatric neurology and two weeks in adult neurology and got to be involved in the day-to-day working life including seeing patients on the ward. While working with Dr Rose I saw rare things I’d never seen before. Paediatrics is always a puzzle because children cannot really explain what they’re feeling in the way that an adult can. You also need to work with the child’s family and their fears and expectations.

The teaching at SUNY Downstate was excellent. We had case studies to test our knowledge every morning for about an hour before we set off on ward rounds. Everyone there was so willing to teach and share knowledge. I learned so much because the staff there were so keen to work with me. I’ve really been encouraged to learn more, research more, read more and it’s confirmed my interest in neurology.

Dr Rose is a very inspiring person and passionate about people taking up paediatric neurology. I will try to replicate his kindness and generosity towards me, towards others I meet in life.’

You can join Arthur and others like him in supporting vital medical research and giving a gift in your Will by getting in touch with us today. Nicola Giblin Planned Giving Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office University of Bristol, 1 Cathedral Square, Trinity Street, College Green, Bristol BS1 5DD. T: +44 (0)117 428 4411 E:

The Science of Happiness – a student’s perspective

A portrait photograph of Ellie
Ellie Wright, current student

Ellie Wright is a current University of Bristol student, taking an MSc conversion course in Experimental Psychology. She partook in the Science of Happiness pilot in 2018 and has found it informative and transformative.

Originally interested from the perspective of supporting her patients as a Health Care Assistant and future psychologist, Ellie was surprised that as she learned through practice in the happiness hubs, she also enjoyed some of the benefits these behaviours had on her own thinking.

‘My motivation for taking the Science of Happiness course was to learn the evidence base behind what does and does not make us happy. I enjoyed looking at how positive early interventions in clinical and nonclinical populations can promote happiness and perhaps even prevent the onset of mental health conditions. An equally important part of this was understanding what we don’t yet know. The content has informed a critical approach I can take forward and that will hopefully benefit what I can offer to future research and clinical practice.

The course covers Philosophy, Economics, Politics, Neuroscience, Psychology – it’s varied and fun. The course uses data from studies to challenge our thinking around what makes us happy. In the lectures, Professor Hood really enjoys myth busting. For example, he explained the evidence behind why we may perceive that we’re happier sitting on our own plugged into our earphones on the daily commute, but how data suggests we are happier connecting with someone else. We learned about critical thinking, such as how to ascertain if a study needs to be repeated to be more robust. I gained insight into gathering and assessing data, looking at the size of the study, the methods used and who funded it. This is exciting! It nudges us to discover research problems and think about what more we might find out in the future with different study designs. It’s been easy to apply the skills learned to other courses. They’re skills for life and they’re transferrable.

This course has reminded me how to make time for fun in my life and how to have fun learning.

We looked at why the Happiness Hacks are important. Take sleep, for example. There’s a study in Nature magazine1 that shows how people deprived of enough sleep for just a week change their body language because their tiredness makes them hypersensitive. In turn this body language makes other people less likely to trust them, a perception whose impact can facilitate social isolation and loneliness for people with poor sleep. But this finding needs to be repeated!

The Happiness Hacks are about noticing automatic behaviours and disrupting these by building healthy habits. Accountability and peer support are what make those good habits stick, which is what happens in the weekly support hubs and are a key part of the Science of Happiness course.

This course promotes a love of learning – or what Professor Hood might describe as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘Flow’. Not worrying about conventional exams, I feel, has a big role to play in this.’

Read more about the Science of Happiness. 

Your University continues to support its staff and students in their health and wellbeing. A full list of services available to students is available at


1. Simon, E. & Walker, M. (2018). Sleep loss causes social withdrawal and loneliness. Nature.

The Science of Happiness

Professor Bruce Hood delivers a lecture
Professor Bruce Hood

How Professor Bruce Hood is tackling the growing issues in mental health and wellbeing among students at Bristol.

Bruce Hood, Professor of Developmental Psychology in Society, tells us about his Science of Happiness course, which looks at rethinking the way we think, combined with practical applications to think more positively. This applied research project will include contacting participants at regular intervals over three years, to map changes in attitudes and behaviours. Following a successful pilot in 2018, from October 2019 this course will be available to all incoming students at Bristol as an accredited module.

The course is structured to run for 12 weeks as a weekly hour-long lecture by Professor Hood and an additional weekly hour-long peer support hub hosted by a trained mentor. Around 300 students are expected to sign up to the course each term. Rather than focus on assignments or exams, students are expected to do project work, attend their hubs and participate in Happiness Hacks to try them out. Other universities have already expressed interest in working with Bristol and Professor Hood to replicate this programme and a pilot in Bristol schools is happening this autumn.

‘From my own experience in recent years it’s become noticeable that students are no longer coming to me as their tutor to discuss ideas and what interests them in the field of psychology. Rather they are showing up in a state of stress and anxiety about how to get good grades, how to pass their exams, what they need to do to excel. While assessment is of course important it appears it’s taken over and a lot of the joy has disappeared from learning. Stress and anxiety among university students is not new. I wrote a paper over 30 years ago 1 on homesickness in students going to university and how there’s a spike in depression at this time. But it’s becoming a burgeoning problem and people are much more vocal about it now. So why is that?

Fifty-three per cent of students arriving at university have self-reported mental health issues before even getting there

Reasons are multiple. There’s a big shift in what students expect. In the UK school system they’re given such tight direction that they can then struggle when faced with the challenges of independent thinking at university. Uncertainty also leads to stress and we are in a time of peak uncertainty, with factors such as geopolitical instability, climate change and the transition to a digital world. Fifty-three per cent of students arriving at university have self-reported mental health issues before even getting there2 and the latest ONS statistics show that rates of mental health issues are rapidly on the increase.3

So what, if anything, can be done? There’s a belief that people with issues regarding mental health and unhappiness are genetically predisposed to it, but that’s not the full picture. Fifty per cent of what influences happiness is genetic factors, 10 per cent is circumstantial – for example winning the lottery or being the victim of a traffic accident– and 40 per cent is intentional activities such as exercising and getting enough sleep.4 My aim with the Science of Happiness course is to look at misconceptions around happiness, to examine how and why we think the way we do, to get the students to really think long and hard about the true meaning of happiness and how we define it, and then to put the Happiness Hacks into practice.

The intention is that it will make the students taking it more resilient and better able to deal with life

I must stress that this course is not a therapeutic one, although students may benefit by self-reflecting and by participating in the Happiness Hacks. The intention is that it will make the students taking it more resilient and better able to deal with life, understanding that success is not necessarily the same as happiness and that having different moods is important. That said, one interesting factor that emerged from the pilot programme was that the biggest fans of the course were our international students, particularly those from Asia. They often can’t talk about anxiety and stress at home in their culture. But because the Science of Happiness is a science course and looks at data and statistics, they felt ‘allowed’ to attend it and they felt liberated by what they learned.

So what is happiness, how do we define it and how do we achieve it? There are three components to wellbeing and happiness, which are: positive emotions, engagement and living a meaningful life. Psychological science shows that we have misconceptions about happiness, that our expectations around it can be detrimental to us and that certain factors can positively influence our happiness.

This is what I examine with the students taking my course, to overcome biases and put strategies into place to become happier. There are proven benefits to being happy, which have a positive effect on society. Happy people are more productive, more creative, more generous and have better relationships.5 Happiness can even predict health. For instance, a 2017 study showed that if you infect test subjects with the flu virus, the happier people fight it off better.6

Since the end of World War II, GDP has been a country’s measurement of success and one which I believe is possibly the worst way of measuring. We need to think about what’s more valuable to society, because we’re very individualistic in the Western world. We could do well to look at Bhutan, which since 1971 has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. In 1972 King Jigme Singye Wangchuck declared that ‘Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product’, giving equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. We’ve lost track of the real values in life, we have a warped notion of self and we’re not asking ourselves if we feel purposeful and valued. At a time when anxiety and stress are on the increase globally and transecting age brackets and socio-economic backgrounds, refocusing on what Aristotle called Eudaimonia – translated as wellbeing – can only be a good thing.’

Happiness Hacks

Practical ways to feel more positive7.

1. Savouring – taking time to savour the things you enjoy.
2. Gratitude – expressing gratitude for people and things.
3. Social Connection – making real-life connections with strangers.
4. Kindness – increasing your acts of kindness.
5. Exercise – increasing your physical activity.
6. Attention – combat mind wandering.
7. Sleep – ensure at least seven hours per night.

Ellie Wright gives us the student perspective on the Science of Happiness.


1 Fisher, S. & Hood, B. (1987). The transition to university: a longitudinal study of psychological disturbance, absent-mindedness and vulnerability to homesickness. British Journal of Psychology, 78, 425-441.
2 Afterline (2018). Union Futures: Being Well, Doing Well [online]. Available at [Accessed 10.07.19].
3 Office of National Statistics UK (ONS), 2018. Counts and percentages of adults with a mental illness, by occupation, age, sex and ethnicity, between May and July 2012 to 2017. ONS.
4 Brickman P., Coates D., Janoff-Bulman R. Lottery winners and accident victims – is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (1978). 36, 917-927.
5 O’Malley, M. N., & Andrews, L. (1983). The effect of mood and incentives on helping: Are there somethings money can’t buy? Motivation and Emotion, 7(2), 179-189.
6 Ayling K., Fairclough L., Tighe P., Todd I., Halliday V., Garibaldi J., Royal S., Hamed A., Buchanan H., Vedhara K., (2017). Positive mood on the day of influenza vaccination predicts vaccine effectiveness: A prospective observational cohort study. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
7 Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect – Does Happiness Lead to Success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803-855.