Ayesha Usmani and Peter Archard

John Scott Health Centre
Interviewed by Virginia Smith

Peter Archard was born in 1941 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He arrived in the United Kingdom in 1956 and lived in Hackney from 1976-79, and then permanentely settled here in 1985. He is a registered at the John Scott in 1985 aged 44, with his partner Ayesha Usmani and their family.

Peter completed a PhD in Sociology in 1977. His thesis was on homeless alcoholics and the social control agencies that in one way or another sought to reintegrate them into society – with very little success.  It was published as Vagrancy, Alcoholism and Social Control (The Macmillan Press, London 1997). In 1982 he completed an MA in Economic and Social History. His dissertation was on London's Salvation Army common lodging houses (1895-1914). He then became a lecturer in sociology and criminology at Middlesex Polytechnic, but left in 1989 to became a full-time researcher for Amnesty International. He worked there for 15 years, taking early retirement in 2004. Since then he has been working as a house-husband and is currently doing research on 19th-century Mexican labour history.

Ayesha Usmani’s parents were born in India. They moved to Pakistan and then Iraq, where Ayesha was born in 1956. The family arrived in the UK in 1959 and lived in Highbury Park. She moved to Hackney in 1985. An engineer by training, Ayesha has had a career in women’s mechanical engineering, specialising in teaching car mechanics to women.

Their three daughters were all registered at birth with John Scott, and have been patients there from infancy. Ayesha also went there as a child, and remembers seeing babies being weighed ‘en masse’ in a large hall.

The family were with the Heron Practice from its early days, when it was led by Dr Janet Millar.  Peter appreciated the architecture, the children played with the revolving doors. Peter and Ayesha both liked the Heron’s philosophy of holistic medicine, treating the whole person, and saw a difference between the Heron and other practices at that time.

Below you can listen to extracts of Peter's and Ayesha's interviews.

Image accompanying MP3 audio clip: Childhood memories ( KB)

Childhood memories

Ayesha recalls her 'sickly' childhood, and her various visits to the John Scott Health Centre with her parents. She remembers a big grand building, and many babies being weighed.

Its always been there.

Ayesha comments on the fact that John Scott's facilities for 'preventive' healthcare often lead to it being taken for granted.

Two favourite things

Peter recalls the John Scott Health Centre in the 1980s, and his two favourite things - the revolving doors that his children played with and the poverty map in the reception area.

The Heron Practice

Peter and Ayesha talk about the Heron Practice founder, Dr Janet Millar, and her open-minded approach to health. In their experience, doctors at the Heron were reluctant to prescribe medicines or antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, preferring to 'empower the patient'.

Homeopathy at home

Ayesha and Peter describe their increasing use of homeopathy and self-diagnosis for their family, following Safaa's bad reaction to two immunisation jabs. Dr Millar practised conventional medicine, but was sympathetic to homeopathy.

Travel and vaccinations

Safaa, who is 18 years old, is still a patient at the John Scott, but talks about her schoolgirl memories, especially the stomach bug that nearly stopped her going on a school trip.

This page was added by Lisa Rigg on 09/02/2010.

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