BGS Presidents - Biographical Sketches: Graham Mulley

Graham Mulley
President of the British Geriatrics Society 2008 -2010

I was a medical student at Leeds University from 1965-1970.  My undergraduate exposure to Geriatrics was at the ward teachings by Hugo Droller, a remarkable geriatrician who looked after hundreds of elderly inpatients but still found time for research and teaching.

Though I knew that I wanted to become a hospital physician, it was only after doing general medicine in Nottingham and rheumatology in Harrogate that the notion of working in elderly care began to appeal to me.  I worked in Nigeria as a medical registrar and on return, did a locum registrar post in geriatrics in Hull.  Working with Peter Horrocks and John Knox introduced me to a dynamic, innovative, caring and holistic view of elderly care and confirmed my desire to work in what was then often seen as a Cinderella specialty.

I then returned to Nottingham as a lecturer and then as MRC research fellow. I enjoyed the excitement of research and worked on platelet behaviour, the management of acute stroke, and many aspects of rehabilitation.  This culminated in a DM thesis,  a monograph on stroke and a handbook for stroke patients’ families (which won a Plain English award). In those days, stroke was not viewed as an important specialty and there were few stroke physicians.  I was greatly inspired by the professor of medicine, Tony Mitchell, who was an early advocate of evidence-based medicine and who instilled a sense of critical enquiry.  He became a great supporter and was always a source of sage advice (“If you want to be a successful geriatrician, you must know something about everything and everything about something – and ensure that the topic you become an expert in is common – such as stroke or incontinence.”)

Tom Arie was then appointed as the first Professor of Health Care of the Elderly in Nottingham and I worked as senior registrar on his unit.  Here I learned about the central importance of Old Age Psychiatry and was  imbued with many important values from Tom, Roy Boyd, John Wattis  and many other enthusiasts for comprehensive elderly care.

It was a privilege to be the first Frohlich Foundation visiting professor of geriatrics at the university of California and Mount Zion hospital in San Francisco.  This was an opportunity to experience a different system of health care.  My awareness of nursing home care was informed by Professor Jeanie Kayser-Jones, an early advocate for care home residents.

In 1983 I returned to Leeds as consultant geriatrician at St James’s University hospital.  In concert with my consultant colleagues, I had four wards and worked in day hospitals on two sites.  I was the first Developmental Professor at Leeds University:  this was a personal chair and the challenge was to build a research base while doing a busy clinical job.

I began to do a series of studies on equipment for people with disabilities.  Gradually more clinicians became involved and we persuaded the BMJ to serialize articles on Everyday Aids and Appliances. A second series was published and followed by articles on community geriatrics, co-edited by Eileen Burns and Neil Penn.  Each series was published in book form, which helped to raise the profile of the department and the specialty.

Teaching had always been one of my enthusiasms and I was fortunate to be invited to lecture in the UK and abroad. There were visiting lectureships and professorships in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore and many European countries.  We welcomed many overseas visitors to Leeds, with particularly close links with the Netherlands.

I became editor of Age and Ageing for five years – a hugely rewarding activity.  Activities at the Royal College of Physicians of London include being Censor, a senior examiner for PACES examinations, chair of the Specialist Advisory Committee and the Joint Specialist Committee on Geriatrics. I particularly enjoyed organizing College symposia on age-related topics (neurology of old age; rheumatology of old age; community geriatrics; nursing home medicine and red flags.)

In recent years I became more involved in community geriatrics, with visits to care homes and working with colleagues in Intermediate care.

Becoming president of the BGS was the pinnacle of my career.  It was an enormous pleasure to introduce many innovations and be an ambassador for elderly careI have now retired from clinical work but continue to enjoy geriatrics. I am now emeritus professor at Leeds, a medical advisor to the think tank, the International Longevity Centre, as well as lecturing, thesis supervision, writing and editing.