Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the citation for Neil Bentley OBE for the award of Honorary Doctor of Health Sciences.
Neil Bentley is a pioneering biomedical scientist, Head of Specialist Microbiology Scientific and Technical Services at Public Health England’s National Infection Service, and celebrated Anglia Ruskin alumnus.
Neil began his career in biomedicine with the Royal Army Medical Corps, initially serving as a medical laboratory technician. Postings to Europe, Hong Kong and Brunei would give him extensive experience of working in an international setting. And the practical skills gained in setting up and running field-based laboratories in Central America would prove invaluable later in his career.
As his experience grew, Neil’s career in the military progressed accordingly, and he would go on to design and lead the microbiology and public health training for all military biomedical science trainees.
In 1995, while still serving in the forces, Neil completed his MSc in Biomedical Science at Portsmouth University. Then in 1996 he left the army, accepting a position at Exeter’s Nuffield Hospital, with a brief to establish a new diagnostic microbiology laboratory.
In 1997 Neil was appointed Senior, then Chief, Biomedical Scientist with the Public Health Laboratory Service at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, during which time he designed and implemented a range of modernisation initiatives, including the installation of one of the first bacteriology total automation solutions within the UK.
In 2007 Neil became the Health Protection Agency’s Regional Head of Operations for Microbiology Services across the East of England. And it was during his time in this role that Neil worked toward his MBA, graduating from our Business School in 2009.
In 2012 Neil was appointed Head of Scientific and Technical Services for the Specialist Microbiology Network of the Heath Protection Agency, and subsequently for Public Health England – with the remit to transform the organisation’s laboratories in line with the progress achieved at Addenbrooke's.
In 2014, Neil’s immediate priorities were disrupted by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and he quickly volunteered to lead the UK’s public health response in the field, co-ordinating and running three field containment level-4 laboratories across Sierra Leone. His military experience proved essential, as he was soon overseeing a complex logistical operation to supply much-needed equipment and consumables to the field laboratories.
Extensive travel across the region, and engagement with local communities, showed Neil that diagnostics provided just a small part of the health services required in the region. And he soon set about enhancing public health provision through community-based education and training.
In recognition of activities in the field, and for his role as liaison between the British and Sierra Leone governments, Neil was awarded the OBE for Services to Public Health in the 2016 Queen’s New Year Honours.
When he’s not hard at work, or flying off to disease-stricken areas around the globe, Neil spends enormous time and energy running sponsored marathons and completing sponsored treks in far-flung locations such as Mount Kilimanjaro and the Himalayas - all to generate funding for causes such as Asthma UK, British Heart Foundation, East Anglia Children’s Hospice, and most recently ENABLE, a charity to provide artificial limbs to people in Sierra Leone.
By recognising Neil’s achievements, we hope to strengthen the links between our University and Public Health England, and to honour the outstanding contribution he has made to the field of biomedical science.
As an inspirational scientist, teacher, manager and mentor, he will be an outstanding role model for our students.
We are delighted to welcome Neil to our Anglia Ruskin community.
Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to present Neil Bentley OBE for the award of Honorary Doctor of Health Sciences, honoris causa.