21/11/1970 – 7/3/2023
Eva Hrobonova (Wilkinson) was, first and foremost, a lovely person - a loving mother and loyal friend. She was intelligent, but very modest and thoughtful and had a great sense of humour - hiding behind her serious front.
Eva was a very experienced and politically astute Consultant in Public Health. She combined a deep commitment to improving population health and reducing health inequalities with a rigorous approach to evidence-based methodologies and best professional practice. She is a huge loss to public health, to the communities she served and to all her family and friends.
Eva was born in Prague, where she grew up and was educated in a medical family, enjoying summers in the family home in the countryside in the little southern Bohemian village of Psarov. She graduated from Charles University, Prague with an MA in Medical Rehabilitation and Physical Education.
Eva came to England in 1993 to learn English. It was here that she first met Francis Wilkinson, later to become her husband. As one of her oldest friends from Prague said, “after her stay in England, her heart was there and she was determined to return”. When Eva was determined, she usually made it happen. She returned to Cambridge University in 1995 on a scholarship, to gain the Diploma in Public Health (equivalent to MA degree).
Her medical qualifications were not reciprocally recognised in the UK and she commenced work using her health intelligence and data analysis skills. She gained Specialist Registration with the UK Public Health Register in 2008.
Even during her training she demonstrated her evidence based approach, her abilities to navigate complex systems and to understand big and small ‘p’ politics. Whilst in the London Regional Public Health Group in the GLA (Greater London Authority) she shaped the (then) Mayor’s Older People’s Strategy to include health and wellbeing based on population analysis and research evidence.
Eva took up the post of Consultant in Public Health at the Inner NW London PCTs (Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham) in April 2011, then became Acting DPH at the City of Westminster in December 2014, after being Deputy DPH at the Triborough Public Health Service (Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham) from April 2013. Eva was effective, resourceful, organised, self-motivated, emotionally intelligent and an effective communicator with strong influencing, negotiation and strategic skills.
Eva had a real ability to connect with people. Her leadership of a team guaranteed focus, calmness and productivity. She brought the best out in people and was an exemplary manager, mentor and very many public health professionals benefited from her support and kindly challenge throughout her career.
Eva was passionate about teaching and training, professional development and talent management. She was Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Department of Primary Care and School of Public Health, Imperial College London, where she lectured on the MPH course, participated in the evaluation of the GoGolborne community-based childhood obesity pilot, which she had set up, and was a Practice partner for the National Institute for Health Research, School for Public Health, Places and Communities Food, Behaviour Change at Population level research proposal. She had a reputation as a sound educator.
At the UK Faculty of Public Health, Eva was the CPD (Continuous Professional Development) Advisor for London, and contributed to the development of CPD policies and practice both nationally and across London.
Latterly, Eva continued to contribute to Public Health, through her work as an Associate in Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST) - a not –for–profit social enterprise, undertaking PH consultancy and training, where she contributed her sharp intelligence and analytical skills to several projects.
Her passion for training was demonstrated by her final public health role as Training Programme Director (TPD) for Public Health in London. Eva was highly supportive of the Registrars, always with so much compassion, care and attention and helping them to navigate the complexity of public health training. She was always available and approachable. She wanted the very best for those in training, those supporting training and the whole of the public health community and strove to achieve this for those around her. She was a committed European and was especially supportive of the ERASMUS+ programme that allowed some exceptional trainees to spend time in Brussels and learn about how European institutions worked. Her twinkly humour and honesty in difficult situations will be remembered as high and honourable standards to meet. Despite her illness she continued as TPD supporting others until the day before she died. Her commitment to her role as TPD was outstanding - “a TPD like no other”. Eva leaves a strong legacy in the next generation of public health specialists who she worked very hard to shape and nurture.
Throughout her PH career in UK, she frequently visited her family and friends in Prague, visiting for some weeks each summer with her daughters and encouraging them to learn several languages. She was a qualified ski-instructor and enjoyed sport and outdoor activities, as well as gardening, cooking, theatre and travelling.
Eva was a courageous Cancer warrior – she used her strong intellect and powerful research skills to explore all the possibilities and challenged her consultants to do more. Her tenacity and determination drove her on throughout her long illness and even to the end she was teaching infection control to her caregivers.
Eva leaves Francis, her husband and two daughters, Alice who has recently graduated in Psychology and Clare who has recently started studying Medicine. They both reflect Eva’s elegance, beauty and her quiet yet dogged determination.
Eva will be missed as both as an excellent public health professional whose passion was to help people through making systems better, as a clever and dedicated teacher, as an elegant, genuine and generous person, for her wisdom, loyalty and dependability and for her kindness and concern for others.
Eva made an enormous difference to all the lives of those she touched through her hard work and warm hand of friendship, she had the ability to embody grace and humanity even under tremendous pressure.
She will be desperately missed, now and always.