Lives of the fellows

Gerald James Goldberg

b.7 October 1921 d.15 November 1989
MB ChB Wits(1945) DPM Eng(1951) MRCP(1952) MRCPsych(1971) FRCP(1972) FRCPsych(1975)

Gerald Goldberg was devoted to the NHS, and to the practice and development of psychiatry in the unglamorous setting of a large mental hospital and an East End catchment area.

He was born in Germiston, South Africa, where his father Aaron Goldberg was a merchant. His mother Anne, née Katz, was the daughter of Jacob Katz, also a merchant. On graduation in medicine from the University of Witwatersrand, he completed his Army service - which was mainly concerned with chest medicine - and decided to specialize in neuropsychiatry. His initial training, from 1947-49, was at the Tara Hospital, Johannesburg, and he then came to England for the first time to take up a post as registrar at the Maudsley, from 1949-50, and later at Friern Barnet and St Pancras Hospitals, 1950-52. For family reasons he returned to South Africa in 1952 and joined the consultant staff of the Tara Hospital but, despite building up a successful private practice, he disliked its market place aspects and was also unhappy with political developments.

After the Sharpeville massacre in 1961 he returned to England with the express aim of working full time in the NHS. Goldberg had a choice of consultant posts and chose to work at Goodmayes Hospital, to which he devoted the rest of his working life. The first challenge was the development of a psychogeriatric service, which later became a specialist unit. Next, he applied himself to general adult psychiatry and despite extremely restricted resources developed a very active outpatients service in Newham, based at St Mary’s and Queen Mary’s Hospitals; with acute and many long-stay beds at Goodmayes which he also strove hard to improve and humanize.

Gerald worked closely with Roy Dennison and Jack Kahn in Newham, pioneering an integrated local authority and NHS community orientated approach, and later played a major part in setting up its first day hospital. Current developments, which will shortly provide the district with its own comprehensive service, owe much to this foundation. Teaching was a particular interest. He initiated structured postgraduate training at Goodmayes which involved teaching in his spare time’ for many years and he later became the first clinical tutor, in which role he played a major part in developing a fully equipped teaching centre. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1972 and service on the College’s accreditation panel provided opportunities to learn about developments in other hospitals, which he greatly enjoyed.

He was a thoughtful, modest and self-critical man who was devoted to the well-being of all his patients including - perhaps particularly -the most disabled or long-term patients. His clinical approach was informed, balanced and sceptical, yet he was determined to achieve something useful for the individual patient. A balanced view of individual, social and biological factors, coupled again with a healthy degree of scepticism, also clearly emerges in his contributions to the psychiatric literature on a variety of clinical topics. He was invariably kind, patient and courteous in all his dealings with patients and staff alike, and particularly supportive of consultant colleagues. The response was respect and affection; in more than a decade working in the same hospital I never heard a bad word said about him. There was a corresponding sense of loss when illness forced his retirement in 1983.

He enjoyed writing in his retirement and had several articles published which reflected his wide interests. His characteristic self-effacement and also his courage are apparent in an account of an acute haemolytic crisis during his leukaemic illness. He continues to be remembered in the service he helped so much to build up, and particularly notable are his carefully written entries in the case notes of long-stay patients who now take advantage of the new community facilities which owe so much to his earlier efforts. Many of these patients still refer to the help they received from him.

He had married Annette, née Rabinowitz, daughter of an hotelier, in 1947, and they had a son and three daughters. His wife was District Postgraduate Librarian for a number of years and a sympathetic friend to many trainees. He was greatly supported by her and his children during his last illness. Fortunately, he and his wife were able to enjoy four grandchildren together before his untimely death.

D Abrahamson

(Volume IX, page 201)

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