Category Archives: Medical

Down English Memory lanes

Just back from three great weeks in England, visiting our special families, as described in my last blog. I took the opportunity to reconnect with several friends from the (very) distant past, and cannot resist sharing them with you.

Joe Clayton and I met 60 years ago, in 1957, when we both represented Cambridge University against rivals Oxford in the annual Athletics match. He competed in the Javelin (as holder of the British junior record) and I was in the Pole vault (not a pretty sight). He took law and had a successful business career. We bounced around each other’s families while I was still living in England, but then lost track. We connected again last week in Essex for a nice lunch with his wife Pat, just 60 years later.


After 3 years at Cambridge, I went to Medical School at St Thomas’s in London in 1960, where I fell among golfers, notably Pat Preece and Mike Anderson.

The golf interfered mightily with my medical studies, but dragged my handicap down enough to represent London University. They both became Family Physicians, Pat in Norfolk and Mike in Devon.

Pat and Janie kindly hosted us to lunch at historic Brancaster golf club. Mike and I rekindled our prior rivalry on the special Burnham and Berrow golf course on the west coast (of England).


I did my specialist postgraduate training at St Thomas’s, which included starting the endoscopy unit in the late 1960s. The reports were typed by a vivacious young secretary, Dorcas Sharp, who happily agreed to organize my professional life, from 1973 until I left for USA in 1986.

Mike Hellier was 2 years behind me training in gastroenterology at St Thomas’s, also lucky to be under the influence of Brian Creamer. He had a distinguished career at Swindon, including leading the British Society of Gastroenterology. We caught up over a lovely pub lunch at his local village.

Dorcas married Malcolm Chapman, my close Radiology colleague at The Middlesex Hospital, and we have kept in close touch. Malcolm was a mentor to two young Medical registrars (UK speak for residents) of mine at Middesex in the early 1980s. Both became Radiologists, Phil Shorvon at Central Middlesex,    and Roger Frost in Salisbury. And both were unusual as Radiologists, continuing to perform endoscopy procedures and ERCP. Phil, Dorcas and Roger joined us for dinner in London last week.


In London in the 1970s and 80s I collaborated with Christopher Williams, the king of Colonoscopy, based at St Marks. We opened the endoscopy unit at the private London Clinic, developed the first ever endoscopy database reporting system (PEDRO), and published the first edition of Practical Gastrointestinal Endoscopy in 1980 (the 7th edition was published 35 years later).


We enjoyed a special lunch with Christopher and Christina at their home in Hampstead and visited Heywood house.

Adrian Hatfield is another favorite long-time gastroenterology friend. Early on he pioneered our collaboration with Solly Marks and his GI unit in Capetown. He took over the position I left at Middlesex in 1986, and became a long time leader in pancreatic and biliary intervention. It was great to catch up with him over dinner.

Which brings us to the most “recent” reconnection. Just 29 years ago, Simon Jones, a British radiologist, came to work in my GI department at Duke University in North Carolina. He survived to return to UK to lead a department in Poole, Dorset. In retirement he is currently a popular Captain of Parkstone Golf Club.


Amazing how little we have all changed in just a few decades…….

Two new medical publications

A survey of credentialing for ERCP in the United States How much pain relief do patients expect after cholecystectomy?

Enhancing quality in GI health care

  How do you/we choose from all those who wish to serve us, whether restauranteurs, plumbers or doctors? How do we know which or who is good, or even excellent? Locally we can rely on our own experience and the recommendations of friends. But it is more difficult away from home. Some things like restaurantsContinue Reading

A National Health system in USA?

The current bizarre health care “discussions” in Washington prompt me to comment. I grew up with, and served in, the National Health Service in Britain. When initiated in 1947 it was relatively inexpensive, since medical care was much less complex and most people died soon after retirement, if not before. The funding did not keep upContinue Reading

South Africa part three – CapeTown

After the wonderful week in the game parks with family, Marion and I headed to CapeTown, where I was to be visiting professor at Groote Schuur hospital. We splurged by arriving on the famous Blue Train from Pretoria. 36 hours of pampering, with great (too much) food. The landscape was rather monotonous until the mountainousContinue Reading

Our EPISOD research project finishes after 9 years.

  This one is medical, but I will try to make it intelligible. EPISOD stands for “Evaluating Predictors and Interventions in Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction”. That pesky sphincter described by Mr Oddi is the valve that controls the flow of juices from the liver and pancreas into the small intestine (duodenum). If it overacts itContinue Reading

Honoring my best old friend

Honoring my best old friend

I went to visit Dick McCray this week. Sadly he is unwell. We met first in 1971 in New York. I was on my first trip to USA, traveling across west to east on my way back to England after spending 3 weeks in Japan looking at and learning a breakthrough technique that became knownContinue Reading

Wow! Messages from 45 years ago

Amazing emails last week, from Sue and Judy, who helped me get started on my endoscopy career. Around 1970 I was running a small GI endoscopy service at St Thomas’s Hospital in London (although still officially in training). There were few resources and no one knew how it would all blossom into a huge industry.Continue Reading

Five years already!

My recent posts have been mainly about my books, now 5 about Fred the friendly snake, and my memoirs, “The tunnel at the end of the light”. The latter tells about my career as a gastroenterologist (a specialist who helps patients to get square meals through round holes). I am reminded that I stopped doingContinue Reading

Down memory lane at The Middlesex Hospital

In London in January for a wander down memory lane