Originally from Zambia, Jim completed a broad and practical portfolio postgraduate medical training both in the UK and South Africa. He has since lived and worked in a number of African countries, both in rural hospitals and as a ‘hands on’ public health doctor.
Intrigued by the gulf that often exists between Western and African traditional medicine, Jim for some years pursued a parallel career in ethnobotany (the study of the traditional knowledge and uses of plants by local people). After an MSc at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, where he researched the ethnobotany of Socotra, Jim set off on an expedition with a Malagasy research partner to make contact with the elusive Mikea forest people of SW Madagascar and to explore their plant uses. This evolved into a 5-year applied ethnobotanical research, community development and conservation project, working with the Mikea and their healers on local priorities such as a fully ambulatory DOTS-TB programme in the forest appropriate to their semi-nomadic, foraging and hunting lifestyle and needs, a fair-trade honey project and a community conservation area (now a new national park). He has also similarly collaborated at various times with traditional healers in KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Mozambique on TB and HIV treatment support, bilharzia (schistosomiasis) elimination and mental health.
From his early years in Africa, Jim has had the privilege to explore some of the more remote corners and waterways of Africa, Madagascar and South America, mostly independently. In addition, he has led and/or acted as expedition doctor to research and artwork expeditions, canoe and walking safaris and botanical tours to Belize, Madagascar (x7), Mozambique (x2), Tanzania and the Peruvian Amazon.
Jim now works as an independent Consultant in Travel & Expedition Medicine in a specialist travel clinic in Edinburgh. He also teaches and is an examiner for the Faculty of Travel Medicine courses in Glasgow and is a member of the Leadership Council of the ISTM Special Interest Group on Expedition & Wilderness Medicine. However, he still manages to get back to the bush whenever he can find a suitable excuse…
After a recent collaboration with a local vet team on Ibo island, Mozambique, Jim’s current passion and ’retirement’ plans involve doing more more community-led rabies elimination work in Africa, firstly to protect the lives of local children and adults, but also partly to save the critically endangered African wild dog (a.k.a. painted wolf or Lycaon pictus) from extinction.