TV doctor Chris Steele returns to Sunderland to pick up honorary degree
A former Sunderland school pupil who became a household name has returned to pick up an honour from the city's university.
TV doctor Chris Steele is one of the big names to receive an honorary degree at the University of Sunderland this week, picking up an Honorary Doctor of Science as hundreds of students celebrated their own successes at today's graduation ceremonies.
Chris, known for his TV work and campaigning on health issues, took his firsts steps to becoming a doctor in Sunderland.
As a schoolboy in the 1960s, Chris used to make the short walk from St Aidan’s Grammar School in Sunderland - where he was a sixth-former – to the biology lab at the nearby girls’ school.
There he would study A-level Biology, which at that time St Aidan’s didn’t offer. That A-level was the key to getting into medical school, where he qualified as a doctor.
Eventually he treated thousands of patients as a GP and he has also advised millions of viewers of ITV’s This Morning as the show’s resident doctor.
Picking up his award, Chris said: “Sunderland has been a strong influence on my early life, as I went to school at St Aidan's in Sunderland.
"I never set out to get into TV. Richard and Judy were patients of mine, and they suggested me as This Morning’s GP. They asked me if i wanted the job and I said 'I do not!'"
“When you speak to people who are successful they all worked hard, and one of their opportunities became a lucky break. That was my lucky break.
He added: "To the graduates today, I advise you to work hard, the harder you work the more successful you will become. It's important in life to make a difference. Sunderland made a difference to me and I urge you to make a difference too.”
Chris left the region to study at Manchester University and took up his medical career in the North West, settling in Fallowfield, south Manchester. He worked there as a GP between 1970 and retirement in 2010, getting to know three generations in many families.
In his wide and varied career, Chris has led the national fight against smoking and even had his own cataract operation filmed for TV.
As part of his work, Chris ran Smokers Clinics in hospital and became recognised as an expert on getting off nicotine addiction, giving lectures in many countries. In the 1980s he also challenged the Department of Health’s refusal to allow nicotine gum on prescription.
It was classed as a “borderline substance”, but today the gum and other products are available on prescription.
The TV doctor believes this is his most rewarding achievement. It is widely appreciated by ex-smokers and their loved ones. The publicity surrounding his campaign led to an invitation to be the studio doctor on This Morning with presenters Richard and Judy.
He was also the couple’s GP. Since then he has helped an unknowable number of viewers to cope with their own worries, to seek the right kind of help and get life-improving treatment for themselves and their families.
Chris’ TV work aims to widen public knowledge about symptoms, the nature of diseases, procedures and medical care.
It has included live on-air examinations for breast, testicle and prostate problems. Two years ago he let the ITV cameras in to film his own operation to remove cataracts.
The TV slot began as a three-month idea but in September the programme will celebrate 30 years of his participation.
He has won many awards for medical journalism and in 2010 was given an MBE for services to medicine and broadcasting.