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Healthy Barmaid

W. Gifford-Jones, M.D.
published 1995, ECW Press

Story in The Medical Post, 1995, by Andrew Skelly. Prevention is the focus of Dr. Walker’s latest – and, he believes, his best – book, The Healthy Barmaid, which is written in a lively controversial style inspired by David Chilton’s bestselling personal finance guide, The Wealthy Barber.

“In The Wealthy Barber, they say that in order to be rich later on in life you have to start saving 10% of what you make early in life, and in the same light, to live to a healthy 85, you have to start practicing preventative medicine early in life,” says Dr. Walker.

Distressed by the increasing prevalence of poor lifestyle habits among the young, Dr. Walker hopes the narrative style, humour and common sense of The Heatlhy Barmaid will “grab the attention of the young and reckless and set them on a different course.”

The book would never have been written were it not for a chance encounter during a stopover in London en route to Singapore, in which Dr. Walker visited his birthplace on Helder Street in Croydon, then afterward went to a nearby pub. The vivacious barmaid who served him him fish and chips turned out to be 85 years old and to have babysat him 60 years earlier.

“On leaving, I kept thinking about this slim, vibrant woman,” he writes in the book’s foreward. “As I boarded the plane for Singapore, I knew I must record this brief luncheon encounter. And so the idea of The Heatlhy Barmaid was born.”

The 216-page book takes place in a fictitious pub called the Red Lion, situated on the River Thames and surrounded by London’s teaching hospitals. For 40 years it’s been the haunt of distinguished medical professors who drop by for a pint and confide the day’s medical issues to Ida the barmaid (named after a secretary and friend who died several years ago.)

Ida has become keenly interested in medical issues and learned to live to a healthy 85. She and a parade of medical experts impart their knowledge to a visiting Canadian insurance executive and his two medical student children on topics ranging from the benefits of moderate drinking and the role of cholesterol in cardiovascular disease, to sporting injuries, birth control and vitamin therapy.

Healthy Barmaid