Lives of the fellows

Jean Georges Domenet

b.13 Nov 1930 d.12 Oct 1998
MB ChB Birm(1954) FFPM RCP(1989) FRCP Edin(1993) FRCP(1994)

Jean (John) Domenet’s contribution to pharmaceutical medicine was immense; no one of his generation has given more to the discipline. He was instrumental in the founding of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, within the three UK Colleges of Physicians, serving on the foundation committee and later becoming the inaugural vice-president and then president. He was also successively secretary, treasurer, vice-chairman and chairman of the Association of Medical Advisers to the Pharmaceutical Industry (AMAPI) in the UK and a member and later chairman of the medical committee of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

Born of French parents, Jean Georges had dual French and British nationality. After obtaining his higher school certificate at the early age of 16, he had to wait to enter university. His father encouraged him to attend the Lycée Francais de Londres in South Kensington, where he spent two years and obtained his baccalauréate. In 1948 he entered Birmingham University Medical School, where he was somewhat lively as a student, and during that time met his wife, Sheelagh, who was a nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). On graduating and receiving the prize in paediatrics, John stayed in Birmingham. His clinical research career began when he held a research registrar post with Oscar Brenner [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.48], a consultant cardiologist at the QEH, and worked closely with Cecil Flear in the clinical evaluation of the first thiazide diuretics.

In 1961 John joined Geigy Pharmaceuticals as a medical adviser. There he met an interesting group of doctors who later, with others, formed AMAPI. Among them was the late Cyril Maxwell, who, with John and F R Smith, designed the interactive simulation for planning and conducting clinical trials that was used for many years as a teaching tool in several countries. The merger of Ciba and Geigy was the first major one of its kind in the UK and it brought John Domenet south after his appointment as head of clinical research in 1973. From 1980, until his retirement, John was medical director of Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals. He brought to these posts a personal interest and experience in research, extending into laboratory science, that allowed him to interact with non-medical scientists.

Those who worked with John saw him variously as an adviser, mentor, coach and friend. John had intellect, he was astute and numerate - though he never ‘got on’ with computers and avoided using one. He had a natural tendency to be cheery and social occasions with him were always joyful, especially when he led everyone in singing ‘Alouhetta’. It was rare for him to show anger - exasperation maybe - and his frustrations invariably ended on a happy note. Above all, he never showed malice and these attributes were the basis of his success as a manager in the company and as an officer in various outside bodies.

John Domenet strove to promote the image of pharmaceutical medicine. He himself worked to the highest scientific and ethical standards. He was also a realist and a facilitator, to use modern business jargon. His efforts through the AMAPI (now the British Association of Pharmaceutical Physicians), the ABPI medical committee and the Faculty to move the discipline to specialty status have nearly been achieved. They began in 1974 when a dialogue opened with the Specialist Advisory Committee (SAC), which had been created to set standards for medical specialities, but the training proposals from SAC were not realistic. John, as chairman of AMAPI, was involved at the time. Instead, the diploma examination was created within the three Royal Colleges of Physicians. It was appropriate that John was so closely involved in the recent negotiations over specialty status.

John was instrumental in launching the first AMAPI symposium on the ‘principles and practice of clinical trials’. He was a member of the Medico-Pharmaceutical Forum, comprising academics and senior pharmaceutical physicians, disbanded when the Faculty was formed. He served on the Trust for Education and Research in Therapeutics, a charity formed by AMAPI that was later fused into the Faculty. As chairman of the medical committee of the ABPI, John demonstrated his negotiating skill in working parties, subcommittees and liaison groups that resulted in a number of guidelines. These covered key areas, such as information to patients, relationships between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry, good clinical practice, post-marketing safety surveillance, and fraud and malpractice. Many of these were the forerunners of current national guidelines, regulations and European directives.

The culmination for him and for the rest of us was his appointment as the first vice-president of the Faculty. Unfortunately, Denis Burley [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.64] died in office as president. John took over and was then elected president just over a year later. In recent months John was assisting with plans for higher medical training, having seen continuing medical education, which he as president had encouraged, become a reality. Thus, his aims for the discipline had nearly all been fulfilled.

His interest in golf and tennis, which he played competitively, and his visits to the pub were valuable relaxation. His memorial service on 13 November, which was his birthday, was an appropriate day and occasion to remember him with affection, gratitude and some humour as he would have wanted.

Robert N Smith

[References:International Journal of Pharmaceutical Medicine 1998,12:277-278]

(Volume XI, page 158)

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