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ss nucleus - autumn 2006,  35 years of nucleus

35 years of nucleus

Mark Pickering takes a trip down memory lane

Anniversaries are a good time to give thanks for where you've come from and to re-evaluate your current direction. This issue marks 35 years since Nucleus first hit the doormats of Christian medical students in October 1971.

The birth of a legend

Those days were times of change for students in CMF. Final year students had first been able to join as associate members in 1966, and this was extended to all clinical students in 1970.

It was in this climate of development that Andrew Brown, then the main CMF student representative, hit on the idea of a newsletter for CMF students. Nucleus was the result.

Andrew had designed the DNA double-helix logo of CMF (which was still in use until this year!) and the title 'Nucleus' came out of that, making an analogy with the information and communication centre of the cell. Nucleus certainly fulfilled that purpose, communicating news, events and prayer information to Christian medical students throughout the UK and Ireland.

Times have changed

In the early days, text for each issue was produced on a manual typewriter, then cut out, pasted together with the hand-drawn illustrations and copied on an old-style duplicator. Technology has clearly moved on! A sample of front covers down the years is reproduced here for you to see.

Nucleus is now much less of a newsletter and more of a journal. The news items in the original format later became part of an insert, Nucleus News, and student news now forms one section of the fellowship-wide CMF News. Gradually Nucleus focussed more on articles dealing with issues at the interface of Christianity and medicine. A massive range of topics can be accessed on our website at, with previous issues online going back to April 1992, which incidentally was the first issue graced by our current general secretary, Peter Saunders!

International distribution has also grown dramatically, so that Nucleus now goes to around 60 countries. CMF UK is blessed both with the resources to produce a quality student journal, and plenty of good authors to draw on. We see it as our responsibility to share this blessing with brothers and sisters who are not currently in a position to produce their own student journal. In addition, articles are sometimes translated and reproduced in other national publications.

Nucleus holds the distinction of being the first international journal specifically for medical students. In 1996 the Student BMJ claimed that for itself, but we were only too happy to set the record straight![1,2]

Nucleus could change your life!

Of course we hope that the articles within each issue both challenge and inform you, enabling you to grow as a Christian medic and bring each area of your medical lives under Christ's lordship. But it's not only the readers that are changed by Nucleus.

In the late 1990s I was on the editorial committee and then later student editor. This broadened my horizons and no doubt is one significant reason why I'm working for CMF today.

Another recent editor was Helen Barratt. Whilst at 6th form she found the CMF website and got interested in Nucleus whilst reading up on ethics for her medical school interviews. Joining the editorial team in her first year at Imperial College, this helped encourage and develop her interests in ethics and writing. It played a part in her getting a Clegg scholarship at the BMJ and from there onto the editorial team of the Student BMJ at the end of her second year. Before long she was doing an MA in bioethics and, since graduating in medicine in 2005, remains passionate about getting medics interested in ethics, both academically and practically.

Both Helen and I have had the chance to meet many overseas readers of Nucleus at conferences of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA – see world congress report on pp4-6). It was particularly striking how much it meant to some of them. We met students who would share one copy between ten of them – what a rebuke to the apathy we sometimes exhibit in the UK!

An ongoing legacy

It is a privilege to be part of the history of Nucleus, which has helped shaped the thought and actions of thousands of Christian medics over the years. There is a constant challenge to keep it fresh and relevant, but also to remain faithful to the timeless truths of the gospel. After all, ethics can easily become dull if it is not rooted in the gospel and God's value and concern for each human life. As we look forward, we do not know what the future holds and how many more years Nucleus will run for. Our prayer is very much that with every issue it continues, that the Lord will speak through us and build his kingdom through the many medics it touches around the globe. To him be the glory!

  1. Claxton R. BMJ 1996;313:766
  2. Selwood R. BMJ 1996;313:1557
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