Lives of the fellows

Gerald Garmany

b.24 April 1914 d.17 July 1979
BSc Manch(1935) MB ChB(1938) DPM Eng(1942) MRCP(1945) FRCP(1956) FRCPsych(1971)

Gerald Garmany was the son of David Garmany, an engineer, and had his early education in his native town of Stockport at the grammar school. He qualified in medicine at the University of Manchester in 1938, having previously obtained a BSc degree in physiology and anatomy. After hospital resident posts and basic training in general medicine, he volunteered to serve in the Royal Navy soon after the outbreak of World War II. He had close contact with Desmond Curran, then consultant psychiatrist to the Royal Navy, and this influenced his decision to specialize in psychiatry. He qualified DPM in 1942, and became a graded consultant psychiatrist in the Naval Medical Service. His achievements during the war are well illustrated by a paper on reactive war-time anxiety states, published in the Lancet in 1944. His large experience of war-time anxiety resulted in 88% success in management, with return to full combatant duties.

He was helped and supported during these difficult years by a happy marriage in 1939 to Margaret Joyce Garmany (nèe Stafford), who was a fellow medical student at Manchester, and who also specialized in psychiatry. Joyce was the daughter of a school master, and her personal support together with that of their two sons, one now in general medical practice, was a major factor in Gerald’s life. After demobilization early in 1946, Gerald had a period as assistant lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Bristol and later as regional psychiatrist to the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.

Garmany was appointed as consultant psychiatrist to Westminster Hospital and Westminster Children’s Hospital in 1948, and immediately had a profound influence on the teaching and practice of psychiatry at the medical school. He was one of the pioneer psychiatrists, who assisted in removal of patients from long term incarceration in vast mental asylums, and concentrated on remedial therapy in general hospital wards. During this period, he wrote an excellent manual on the use of muscle relaxation as an aid to psychotherapy, and contributed useful scientific articles to medical journals. He was a pioneer in the use of chlorpromazine in psychiatry, and reported that all cases of psychoneurosis in which mental tension was a prominent feature were amost uniformly improved. Garmany considered that abreactive techniques had an important place in acute reactive anxiety states during war, but had a much more limited use in peacetime, being chiefly of value for acute dissociative states. He stressed the importance of anxiety states in practice, and reported that this was the diagnosis in 28% of consecutive referrals to his hospital outpatient department. Constitutional predisposition to anxiety was found to be of greater importance than operative stress factors. He considered that a rigid division of depression into the endogenous, reactive and involutional types could not be entertained in general psychiatric practice.

Garmany was a clear, common sense teacher of psychiatry, and was a popular exponent of his specialty to generations of Westminster medical students. Soon after his appointment at Westminster Hospital, he started a day hospital, and extended inpatient psychiatric care to All Saints’ Hospital in Lambeth. In the latter half of his fifties he suffered from a period of gradually failing health, and was forced to retire prematurely from his hospital appointments in 1972.

Throughout his active life, Gerald Garmany was a psychiatrist of great personal drive and organizing ability. His hobbies included the games of golf and chess, and throughout his adult life he maintained an expert knowledge of civil law, and was, for many years, a member of Lincoln’s Inn. He will long be remembered with fondness by his hospital patients, numerous Westminster medical graduates, who benefited from his superb psychiatric tuition, and his colleagues at Westminster, who missed his clear and practical approach to psychiatric problems.

MD Milne

[Brit.med.J., 1979, 2, 452]

(Volume VII, page 201)

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