Professor Arup Banerjee

Arup Banerjee’s career is typical of that generation of overseas-trained South Asian doctors who came to the UK to work and largely founded the geriatric speciality. With one significant difference, in 1996 he became president of the BGS, serving as the first and, writing in 2017, only South Asian doctor to hold that post. 

Arup was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 28 November, 1935 into a traditional Hindu family. His father was an electrical engineer; his mother was home educated but responsible for Arup and his brother’s early education. He started school at 8 matriculating  in 1950 with distinction. He joined the oldest and one of the most reputable medical schools in India, the Calcutta Medical School, qualifying in 1957 at 21. He was interested in medicine and after the pre-registration period of six months stayed on as House Physician. A year later he moved to a medical school in Pondicherry, as a tutor, having married Aleya a classmate. Their first son was born but both Arup and Aleva were planning to go to the UK to get higher medical qualifications. 

Arup and Aleya travelled by boat in the cheapest possible class, then by train from Genoa to Calais, locked in ‘like cattle’, and arrived at London Victoria in September 1960. They had no money, no place to stay, no job, no known individual to guide and help. As Arup puts it: ‘the struggle commenced’.

Working in several district hospitals as senior house officer while studying he took his MRCP from Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. A job as SH0 at Southampton General Hospital under Thomas Rudd, a BGS  office bearer, had important repercussions for his later career.

Wanting  further experience, Arup, his wife and their three sons went to teach in the new medical school in Kuala Lumpur, but after three years they decided to return. He asked Thomas Rudd for advice and was warmly invited back to the UK. In 1971 Arup joined the new specialty of geriatric medicine as a senior registrar in the Southampton/Portsmouth training rotation.

Following the MRCP in Haematology (Edinburgh) he wrote several research papers on platelet disorder in old age and carried out a survey of anaemia  among elderly residents in  Part 3  social services homes.  Around this time he met Lord Amulree and Professor John Brocklehurst, the first  professor of geriatrics in England. In 1973, Arup took up his first consultant’s post at Bolton Hospital a district general hospital, with a somewhat disorganised service: too many beds; too few staff; too scattered and virtually no facilities for training or research. He set up ‘case-finding clinics’  in the community and  was involved in the management and delivery of services at both District and Regional levels. Professor Brocklehurst welcomed Arup as an honorary lecturer at the University Hospital of South Manchester (Withington) where he taught clinical students, junior doctors, nurses and therapists and at the same time researched protein malnutrition in the chronic sick and the immunological effects of supplementation. His Bolton department gained a reputation which made it popular with junior doctors applying for posts. 

Arup became chair of the regional consultants and specialists committee of the BMA and was chair of North West geriatrics training committee. He was a member of the North Western Regional Health Authority, eventually becoming vice chair and president of the Manchester Medical Society, a rare achievement for a geriatrician from a district general hospital. While president of the BGS he was awarded an OBE and in 1994-1998 was Medical Director at the new Bolton Trust NHS trust. 

Arup retired from the NHS in 1999. Since his retirement he has continued to develop elderly care in other districts, in South Manchester, Wigan & Leigh  and in Barnsley. He lectures health visitors and community nurses at Bolton Institute of Higher Education, and participates in service research with the Institute’s health department. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Bolton University where he has an honorary professorship.

Arup’s wife Aleva, died in 2010. Their three sons are all senior medical professionals while two of his grandsons are studying medicine at Cambridge. He has always fought for better education and training and research in elderly care. He still writes regularly and lectures on ageing, which he feels is essential for the betterment of service and care.