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The Second in our series of know your medical carers which we shall periodically be presenting on our Profile page: -


Dr Alison Blackman

Champion of the Manx Diabetic

Dr Alison Blackman is the founder member of the Manx Diabetes Centre, and it was a bad day when on 25th August 2004 Dr Blackman resigned her post as Hospital Practitioner in Diabetes at the Centre

            She had to resign her part-time position at the Manx Diabetes Centre as her full time partner at the surgery at Ballasalla is on a second term of long term sick leave in the last 18 months, and she therefore has to devote herself full time to the surgery, in order to fulfil the requirements of the new GP contract and keeping the surgery going.

            This does not mean that the diabetic has lost a valuable member of the team, as she does run a weekly diabetes clinic at her Ballasalla surgery for her GP based diabetic patients, and will continue to do so in the future, maintaining her interest in diabetes. So all is not lost as her surgery based patients will still get her continued attention.

            Dr Blackman was appointed to the Centre when it first opened, by the then Minister for Health and Social Security Mr Bernie May on the 1st September 1991.

            All diabetics on the Isle of Man owe her an immense debt of gratitude for her inspiration, guidance and hard work in the establishment of the Manx Diabetes Centre as we know it today. Without Dr Blackman the Centre would not have been possible.

            When there was nothing she sowed and nurtured the seeds for the future of diabetes care on the Isle of Man, when the DHSS appeared at the time not to want to know about the Manx Diabetic. Dr Blackman was a tower of strength that all diabetics turned to in their hour of need.

            Dr Blackman was the one that stood up to be counted, and rising to the occasion, set the foundations for the Manx Diabetes Centre that started from nothing in a dingy room in the basement of old Noble's, and through hard work and perseverance in the face of DHSS opposition, is now the envy of Diabetes Centre's across the water.

            Dr Blackman did not rest on her laurels, she set about her task, with unrelenting vigour and enthusiasm, and led by example.

            After much cajoling and extreme pressure not only from Alison but also from Member friends in the House of Keys and Tynwald, the DHSS had to succumb and abide by a resolution for the establishment of a proper Diabetic Centre with a multi-disciplinary team, with diabetologists, diabetic nurses, doctor, nurses, dieticians, podiatrists, secretaries etc.

            It took 10 years of hard work for the appointment of Dr. Blackman, and another 10 years from the appointment of Dr Blackman to achieve the Manx Diabetes Centre.  that  opened at the old ward black at Noble's in the year 2000.

            Throughout all these years Dr Blackman was at the cutting edge of the pressure and debate to make all this possible

            Dr Alison Blackman, was not only a credit to her profession, .but she was the unrelenting champion of her Manx people, in the development of diabetes care on the Isle of Man and words cannot do justice to her achievement on behalf of us all.

            Her tenacity and vision will go down in the annals of diabetic care on the Isle of Man, as the light of hope that shone through, when diabetic care on the Isle of Man was non existent.

            As an eminent diabetologist from across the water put it, the DHSS at the time was keeping the Manx diabetic patient “in the dark ages of diabetic care”

            It was Alison Blackman who brought us all though, and taking us by the hand took us, and the DHSS into the 21st Century.

            Dr Alison Blackman is no longer with us at the Manx Diabetes Centre, but when some of us are long gone, or some may have left the Island, people will still be singing the praises of a true Manx person, who had the vision and interest of her Manx people at heart.

            We won't, but she will live forever in the History of Diabetic care in the Isle of Man.

            How did this all start, Dr Blackman tells me that her first interest was at medical school where she chose a diabetes attachment for the medical component of her GP training.

            Dr Bourdillon, having known her interest when acting as his House Officer asked her to start a hospital clinic and develop the service. This started with her appointment in September 1991.

As already explained she started in a single room with no windows. The room was shared by the breast prosthesis cupboard, and with the scales in the corridor. She did everything, from testing the urine, weighing and measuring the patients. before she did the consultation.

From these humble beginnings Dr Blackman developed the triplicate record slip system because there was no secretarial support.

            She then developed a working relationship with the pathlab to arrange the pre-clinic blood system, the microalbuminuria testing on the island, and worked the old fundus eye camera.

            At a later stage two nurses were attached to the facility, Pat Larkham and Jan Truland, and then Dr Blackman pushed for the recognition of the need for development.

            Multi-disciplinary clinics with Dietetic and Podiatry support were established and after achieving the Diabetes Centre plan, it was obvious that 3 clinics per week was insufficient and a Consultant led clinic was necessary.

Dr Geoff Gill, the Consultant Physician and Lecturer in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, provided an initial visiting service from Liverpool, and vigorously supported the plan for Dr Blackman to have a permanent contract as Hospital Practitioner in Diabetes for four sessions, and the appointment of a Consultant in Diabetes and a multi-disciplinary team, that eventually came into existence, which grew to the Manx Diabetes Centre that we have today.

            The Manx Diabetes Centre at the old Greeba Ward at new Noble's is now the envy of Diabetes Centres across the water. Here is proof that from little acorns big trees grow.

Doctor Alison Blackman nee Callister, was born at the Jane Crookall on 2nd November 1957.

            Her formative education took place at Victoria Road Castletown, not Douglas, but she assures everyone that it did indeed have a prison feel about it.

            She progressed to a more liberal environment at Castle Rushen High School where she claims she had a mad passion for sport and music acquiring a Grade 8 on the violin. She was Captain of the netball team, the tennis team and the hockey team, and she played hockey for school, club and Island.

            She was the Head Girl, which no doubt served he well in later years, when she needed, not only to fight her corner, but that of her Manx diabetic patients.

            She left Castle Rushen with 9 “O” levels, 1 AS level and 4 “A” levels.

            From 1976 to 1981 Dr Blackman studied medicine at the University of Manchester from where she graduated on July 8th 1981 with her medical degree, MBChB, and started as a House Officer at Noble's the very next day, the 9th July.

            Dr Blackman had also taken a 4th year of a medical and surgical attachment at Noble's, whilst doing her university degree

            She was in the post of House officer at Noble's until 1982 from where she went to a GP training scheme in Rochdale Lancashire. There she took six monthly courses in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Geriatrics and medical admission, diabetes and renal medicine and paediatrics. This lasted until 1984.

            In 1985 she spent a year as a GP trainee/registrar with Membership Royal College General Practice

            From December 1985, she was, and has been the Principal in General Practice at the Ballasalla Surgery where she started initially on a part-time basis. When she joined the practice the patient base was 2,700 and they were based in a two bedroom cottage.

            Today this patient base has increased to 4,200, and after ten years of planning they have moved to the purpose built Ballasalla Medical Centre within the Parish Commissioner's Community Buildings in Ballasalla.

            Bureaucracy is something that she can't stand, that is why she took her motorcycling test just in time to avoid the R plate system.

            Alison in her spare time does SCUBA diving and chases the salmon with her fly fishing in Scotland. She likes to read and longs for some spare time to do it.

            Dr Blackman leads a full life in the pursuit of the well being of her Manx patients. In addition to her hospital and GP practice commitments, she has had several very important roles in the community.

            She was secretary of the Medical Society for seven years and President from 2001 to 2002.

            She was the Police Surgeon for the South of the Island and the Child Protection Unit for seven years.

            She was a Member, and finally Chairman of the Management Committee of the Postgraduate Medical Centre until 2003 when the Centre closed.

            She still continues as Honorary Medical Advisor for the RNLI at both Port St Mary and Port Erin, which incidentally makes her a crew member.

            She is the GP Clinical Tutor and Appraisals lead.

            She is Chairman of the Isle of Man Research Committee

            She is the Chairman of the Isle of Man Down's Group, and

            She is on the Committee of the Friends of the Manx Diabetes Centre.

            As already pointed out Dr Alison Blackman has been running a weekly diabetes clinic in Ballasalla for her GP based diabetic patients, and she is adamant that she will continue to do so in the future, thereby maintaining her interest in diabetes.

Who knows what the future holds, or what will happen, she might still be back.

Dr Blackman has two children, David and Sarah. David born in March 1985 will shortly be starting medicine at Manchester University, and Sarah born in April 1988 will be making up her mind as to what to do, when she finishes school on the Island, but in the meantime she is following in her mothers hockey footsteps, with Alison as the taxi driver and cheer leader.

The Friends of the Manx Diabetes Centre wish Dr Blackman every success at Ballasalla Medical Surgery, and assure her of the Group's help and support whenever she may require it and in whatever she chooses to pursue.

 

Henry J Ramagge

Chairman, Friends of the Manx Diabetes Centre.

 

 

 

 

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