Lives of the fellows

Geoffrey Gerrard Gillam

b.28 January 1905 d.15 February 1970
MRCS LRCP(1927) MB BS Lond(1928) MD(1938) MRCP(1938) FRCP(1967)

Geoffrey Gerard Gillam, who was born in Holt, Norfolk, followed a family tradition by taking up medicine. His father was Dr. J.B. Gillam, and his mother, Dorothy Jane née Skimshire, was descended from a family engaged in medicine since the late eighteenth century. He was educated at Epsom College where he was Captain of the School and there obtained a classics scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, but this he was unable to take up because of the early death of his father. Instead he went to University College Hospital on an Epsom College Scholarship. At University College Hospital he won the Lister Gold Medal in Surgery. He was house physician to Sir Thomas Lewis at University College Hospital and house surgeon to Jasper Blaxland at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. He first qualified with a Conjoint diploma in 1927 and graduated MB, BS (London) in the following year.

He started his career in a country general practice at Bungay, Suffolk, and liked to recall the unusual and amusing situations he encountered during that period. His unhurried approach and unlimited devotion to his patients, which was to remain a hallmark of the man for the rest of his life, won for him the respect and affection of the local people. It took some courage to abandon such a congenial life and return to London to study for higher qualifications, in the hope of a consultant post in hospital service. The 10 years break from academic work proved no handicap to him, and in 1938 he obtained both the MRCP and MD (London). In 1943 he joined the Army and served with distinction in Normandy and India, attaining the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. After the war he worked in the National Heart Hospital, where he developed his interest in cardiology and formed a close and abiding friendship with Paul Wood. In 1947 he was appointed physician to Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, and later when that hospital became the centre of a group also gave his services to Solihull Hospital.

Gillam was tall and distinguished in appearance, and his penetrating intellect was clearly the basis of an almost uncanny diagnostic acumen. Some may have been deceived by the apparently puzzled simplicity with which he formulated his questions at medical gatherings, but, in effect, these usually served to focus attention on vital points and carried the discussion to the right conclusions. The modest resources of the hospital in which he worked did not run to the equipment of ultra-modern cardiology, but this did not stop him keeping abreast of developments and mastering many of the new techniques. His interest in the welfare of patients was always paramount and from this followed naturally his endeavour to improve conditions in the hospitals in which he worked, and Selly Oak in particular owed a great debt to him for what he achieved in this respect. He was an excellent colleague and the great interest he took in those who worked with him evoked in turn an unlimited devotion from all his associates. He was President of the West Midlands Physicians Association in 1966-67 and Chairman of Staff Committees at Selly Oak and Solihull Hospitals. It is a mystery how, after all this, he found time for his many cultural pursuits, including music, poetry and a special interest in Shakespeare; as well as fishing and bird watching. Unfortunately the last year of his life was dogged by ill-health and after his official retirement he was only back for a short time in his Holt home, in his beloved Norfolk, when death claimed him.

He married Mary Frances Oldake, née Davies, daughter of Captain W. Davies, a shipbroker, and had three sons - one of whom is P.M.S. Gillam, a consultant physician and also a Fellow of the College. His brother, John F.E. Gillam FRCS was for many years a consultant surgeon in West Wales.

AM Nussey

[Brit.med.J., 1970, 1, 698; Lancet, 1970, 1, 479]

(Volume VI, page 196)

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