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Professor Sir John Grimley Evans MA, DM, MD, FRCP, FFPH (1936 - 2018)

Professor Sir John Grimley Evans was born in Birmingham in September 17th 1936. He was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, won a scholarship to St. John’s College, Cambridge and completed his medical education at Balliol College, Oxford. Initially he envisaged a career combining epidemiological research with clinical practice. He was a visiting scientist at the University of Michigan 1966-7 and Research Fellow at Wellington, New Zealand 1967-70. The latter involved a study of Polynesians in the South West Pacific who had migrated from coral atolls to New Zealand. The investigation showed that one health effect of the relocation was an acceleration of ageing. An appointment as a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine followed in 1970-1971. However, his interest in age related diseases had been ignited and was to absorb the rest of his professional career.

In 1971 he was ‘head hunted’ to set up a modern comprehensive geriatric service at Newcastle, where he became a leading proponent of the integration of general and geriatric medicine, a view then at variance with the opinions of many geriatricians. Three years later he was appointed to the new Chair in Geriatric Medicine at Newcastle University. He introduced a teaching course that successfully attracted clinicians into a career in geriatric medicine. In 1977, he hosted the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) Spring meeting at Newcastle.

In 1985 he was appointed to a new Chair of Geriatric Medicine (later restyled Clinical Geratology) in Oxford and remained there until he retired in 2002. He relentlessly campaigned to publicise the needs of older people and of geriatric medicine by establishing strong links with the Department of Health, the Medical Research Council and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). He was a member of the WHO Expert Panel on Care of the Elderly for many years.

He was very active in the RCP and was Pro-censor and Censor 1990-92. He chaired the Examining Board for the Diploma of Geriatric Medicine, was Chairman of the Specialist Advisory Committee on Geriatric Medicine 1979-1986 and a member of other College committees. On one occasion, he commented that the presentation of his committee’s report to the RCP Council resulted in ‘blood on the carpet’. In 1997, he gave the RCP Harveian oration.

He was committed to the BGS and firmly supported the Society remaining within the Royal College of Physicians at a time when the Society was considering becoming a separate College. He gave the Marjory Warren lecture and received the Founder’s medal both in 1999.

He lectured and published extensively including two editions of the Oxford Textbook of Geriatric Medicine, and other specialty publications. He was editor of Age and Ageing between 1988 and 1995, was a founder of the European Academy of Medicine of Age, which organises advanced postgraduate courses in geriatric medicine, and was an Emeritus Professor of Green Templeton College, Oxford. He was knighted in 1997 and the following year was appointed a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. In 2000, he led a team, which was to decide whether General Pinochet was mentally and physically fit enough to be extradited to Spain to stand trial on torture charges. This proved to be a very unpleasant period because he was subject to considerable vitriolic abuse and much unwelcome press attention. In lighter moments, he enjoyed Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while continuing to relish fly fishing. He died suddenly on March 26th aged 81.

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