People

1st February 2008 at 00:00
A curious photograph stands in the office of Andy Gillespie, the new headteacher of Burnham Grammar in Buckinghamshire. It shows him smiling in a laboratory, holding a sieve in one hand and a bag of dark material in the other.

Dr Gillespie (below) followed an unusual career path to becoming a headteacher. He took a degree in parisitology at Leeds University, then a PhD in tropical medicine at Imperial College London. For his fieldwork he travelled to South America to study a parasitic worm which causes river blindness (onchocerciasis). The expedition involved him travelling along the Orinoco river. He then spent more than two months living in the rainforest in Venezuela, studying the Yanomami indian tribe, who remain impervious to the illness.

However, the photo Dr Gillespie treasures was taken in a medical lab in St Lucia. "We were treating every child in St Lucia for gutworms," he said, "essentially getting children to crap in a bag for three days, then picking out the worms in an unairconditioned laboratory. It's amazing how quickly you got used to it.

"I keep the photo to remind me that no matter how bad things get, they can be worse."

Dr Gillespie, now 39, retrained as a teacher in 1994 and began his career at Burnham Grammar, bringing his interesting experiences into science lessons.

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