Our weekly guide to healthcare's most influential people

Published:25/04/2002, Volume II2, No. 5802, Page 16 17

Name: Julia Ross

Job: Chief executive, Barking and Dagenham primary care trust and social services department

Style: Health and social care's answer to Lucozade - high-energy swimmer and skier who runs every morning before starting work at her doublebarrelled job, a groundbreaking joint appointment last year.'She drove that process, she brought the idea of merging it, ' says one observer.'I quite like measured risks, ' says Ms Ross. Full of enthusiasm, and 'inspirational' in a 'grounded'way. Is now on the Modernisation Board.

Background: Trained as a nurse in 1966, when 'you were not allowed to talk to people', but felt she might help more as a social worker, retraining at the London School of Economics.Became social work adviser to the select committee on family violence.Moved to Scotland and was writing a book to help children deal with bereavement when her husband died suddenly.Became director of Lothian family mediation services in 1983, then deputy director of Lothian social work department in 1988. In 1994, got the director job at Hillingdon but departed in 1996 after what the council called 'a breakdown in relationships'with social services committee members.'That is politics. It happens, ' she says.'You live, learn and move on.'The Lord Chancellor's Department snapped her up to work on the 1996 Family Law Act.Took on social services at Barking and Dagenham in 1998, getting it off 'special measures'.Chaired the Mental After Care Association in 1999.

Future prospects: A national Berlin Wall-busting role must beckon, but this is a woman who creates new kinds of jobs, so anything is possible.