Lives of the fellows

Geoffrey Murray Davies

b.25 October 1933 d.25 May 1993
MB Bchir Cantab(1958) MRCP(1960) MD(1969) FCCP(1976) FRCP(1979) FRCPC

Geoffrey Davies was the son of a Welsh schoolmaster, Albert Edward Davies, and he never lost his deep pride in his Celtic roots. He was educated at Dulwich College and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Among other subjects, he loved poetry and memorized much of Shelleys works which he quoted with feeling on appropriate occasions. His quick hand and eye made him expert at squash, which he played all his life. He undertook his clinicals at Guy’s Hospital, London, and became secretary of the University of London Squash Club. He represented Wales at the international championships in 1960 and continued to beat all comers until well into his sixth decade, including men half his age.

From 1958 to 1964 he held house posts at Guy’s; with a year as registrar at Lewisham Hospital from 1962 to 1963. From 1965 to 1968 he was senior registrar at the Brompton Hospital and his fondest stories were of his years there with Lynne Reid, George Simon and Guy Scadding. During this time he applied his meticulous powers of observation to morphometry and published on lymph casts of the bronchi, the development of small pulmonary arteries after birth, the effects of scoliosis on development of the lung and the effect of cystic fibrosis on the development of small pulmonary arteries.

In 1968 John F Paterson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.450] recruited Geoffrey to Sunnybrook Hospital, Canada, a veterans’ hospital which had recently been turned over to the University of Toronto, as the only teaching hospital actually owned by the University. Geoffrey joined an enthusiastic team of like-minded academic physicians concerned for patients and providing solid instructions for students and house staff. His talent and passion for teaching was outstanding. He was highly rated by all levels of students and trainees, and for many years did the lion’s share of undergraduate lectures on respiratory medicine. He also expected hard work and clear thinking from his students and trainees. He adapted quickly to Canadian ways but always followed the British part of Canadian medical culture. His research interests moved to clinical issues and he joined the team at the Gage Institute to study clinical aspects of asthma, a disorder he understood from the inside as a sufferer himself since childhood. He participated in the earliest Canadian trials of inhaled steroids and in large trials of industrial asthma, with many years devoted to studying respiratory problems in grain workers. He was attracted to fundamental clinical problems and produced a video on the physical examination of the chest; he also co-authored a book on chest pain. He was active in international co-operation, was elected a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians in 1976 and directed sponsorships for their meetings in Toronto.

His concern for excellence in the performance of medical duties was matched by his concern for the well-being of students and patients. Although basically shy and reserved, he was sensitive to individual needs, giving a hug to a patient who needed it or a break for laughter with a student. He undertook the time-consuming but necessary tasks of a division head and sat on the committees that managed the financial affairs of the hospital. He also spent time in teaching patients’ families about disease and was active on the rehabilitation committee of the Ontario Lung Association for many years, for which he received an honorary life membership.

Geoffrey loved British history and read widely. He glowed as he recounted exploring ancient ruins, or displayed brass rubbings from ancient frescoes. He cherished the old art of weaving and passed his love of tradition on to his children. As a Welshman, song was always in his heart and would sometimes burst forth spontaneously - during a slack moment in the operating room if there was a Welsh anaesthetist, or with friends and family round the piano at home. His energy was boundless. He went to Greece despite his illness and would not miss seeing Athens, even though he needed a wheelchair. He married Avril Ellen, a nurse with a big heart and a golden voice. They had four children and, at the time of his death, two grandchildren. It was a joy to behold the family playing host - as a team - to more than a hundred colleagues and friends at Christmas. To watch them at his bedside, in the last months of pain, was a testimony to the love he so freely gave and so graciously received in return. In so many ways the measure of a man is compassion for the suffering of others and strength in personal suffering. In these Geoffrey Davies proved his humanity.

P M Webster

(Volume X, page 97)

<< Back to List