Lives of the fellows

Frank John Goodwin

b.26 February 1938 d.29 September 1987
BA Cantab(1959) MB BChir(1962) MA(1963) MRCP(1964) FRCP(1977) MD(1980)

Frank John Goodwin was born in Stratford. London, and died at the tragically early age of 49 years after a long and debilitating illness. He was married to Mary Rose Goodwin, ophthalmologist, and was the only son of John Leonard Goodwin, a cost accountant, and his wife Edith Maud.

Frank Goodwin was educated at Brentwood School, Essex, from 1946-56. He matriculated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, with a BA in the natural sciences tripos. His clinical studies were undertaken at the London Hospital medical college where he graduated MB BChir, gaining a distinction in medicine and the college prize. Following this auspicious start he was appointed house officer to the medical unit and then to the surgical unit at the London. House physician posts at the Hammersmith Hospital and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, followed and in 1965 he returned to the London as lecturer in medicine. Having been awarded the Lewis Smith postgraduate travelling scholarship in clinical medicine and a Lilly international research fellowship, he went to work with John Laragh at the Columbia University Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, in 1967. The research work he carried out there formed the basis of his MD degree, and resulted in several original publications. He returned to England two years later and was appointed lecturer in the medical unit at the London Hospital medical college. In 1971. at the unusally early age of 33, he was appointed consultant nephrologist to the London Hospital and senior lecturer to the medical college.

The passion Frank had for clinical medicine and research was inculcated from his undergraduate days by such eminent nephrologists and teachers as Clifford Wilson, John M Ledingham, Michael Floyer, and later John Laragh. It is not surprising therefore that he developed an abiding interest in hypertension, the role and control of renin, the workings and diseases of the kidney and, in particular, his patients and students.

In 1965, under the guidance of Clifford Wilson and John Ledingham, he first undertook regular haemodialysis for the long-term treatment of patients with terminal renal failure. It was as a result of this early experience that the first Ministry of Health dialysis unit was set up in 1968 at the London Hospital, and a renal transplant programme was started the same year. Frank’s return from the USA, and his later appointment as consultant nephrologist, enabled him to maintain his interest in renal replacement therapy. The number of patients treated by dialysis and transplantation increased rapidly, so that 20 years later the London Hospital dialysis unit had become the largest in the United Kingdom. Although the pressure of work was very heavy he always refused to restrict his interests to nephrology, believing that the illnesses of patients were not confined to one organ and neither should be the sympathies of their physicians. He was proud of the fact that he was senior lecturer in medicine and honorary consultant physician, and in both capacities he practised general medicine throughout his professional life.

Frank remained active in research which, from the time he returned from New York, was almost entirely patient orientated. He gained a considerable reputation for his work, publishing over 40 articles and reviews, which had a special bias towards the renin-angiotensin system and its role in hypertension.

In his dealings with patients he was meticulous. His assessments took into account every aspect of their illness: medical, social and occupational factors were recorded with great care, together with his interpretation and decisions on management. Woe betide the notes which were in poor condition. Out would come the scissors, scalpel, sticky paste and sellotape, and tatty notes were soon restored to pristine condition. This punctilious, even obsessive, approach characterized everything he did, whether clinical practice, research, teaching, or wallpapering a room in his beautiful old house in Kent.

Frank Goodwin loved teaching and was good at it. His formal lectures were held in high esteem, perhaps because they were deliberately simple in presentation, his having considered carefully what his audience needed to know and how best this could be conveyed. His informal teaching was equally popular. He was a tutor to students at the medical college for 20 years, and one of only three senior clinical tutors for some 10 years. As a member of the committee which selected students for entry to the medical college he met them again during their clinical studies and took very seriously his responsibility for monitoring their progress, advising on their electives, helping them when they were experiencing difficulties and stimulating those likely to achieve particular success.

As if this were not enough, he actively encouraged a heavy administrative load. His meticulous habits helped him greatly in coping with this, for all arrangements and results of discussions and meetings were documented precisely and filed for future use. This provided the basis for his considerable administrative ability, together with a critical faculty which enabled him to separate what was important from the unimportant and the accurate from the imprecise. He was a member of the executive committee of the Renal Assocation from 1974-78 and its secretary from 1978-81. He was also the local organizing secretary of the 1983 congress of the European Dialysis and Transplantation Association held in London. Sadly, his illness prevented him from completing the work of the same post in connexion with the 1987 congress of the International Society of Nephrology, also held in London.

A taught, smart, spare figure, with a very direct gaze, he could be both forbidding and authoritarian. He tolerated no nonsense, and his responses could be brusque, even cutting, particularly for those whose abilities or dedication were of doubtful calibre. His severest rebukes were reserved for people who were less than totally honest, or would not try. He himself was intensely honest and strove to maintain the highest of clinical and academic standards. Privately he would sometimes admit to a fear that he could not live up to the standards he set for himself. His incisiveness made his judgements much valued by colleagues, and his presence on a committee ensured that its deliberations were not merely well-intentioned but also properly thought through.

Despite his apparent austerity, he could be very kind and he would go to much trouble to ensure the health and happiness of his patients, and also that his students were given every opportunity to succeed.

Frank’s main relaxation was music. Having learned to play the clarinet at school, apparently without achieving greatness, he took piano lessons in his late thirties and became an enthusiastic and proficient player. He loved opera, particularly Wagner, sang madrigals at Cambridge, and was president of the London Hospital music society, in whose choir he sang.

He also painted watercolours, enjoyed art exhibitions, walked the fells and dales of northern England, and went birdwatching on the Norfolk Broads. Although not a great natural sportsman, he was a competent skier, and took much pride in having coxed for Caius in the Bumps and at Henley. He abhored television and for many years refused to have a television set. What time others spent watching television found him improving the flowers and foliage of his country garden, double-glazing the windows of his house or preparing for the next day’s work.

Frank met his wife when she became one of his tutorial students at the London Hospital medical college. Mary Rose, an ophthalmologist, was the daughter of the late Frank Burnet Byrom, an experimental pathologist with an international reputation for his work on the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of hypertension and hypertensive encephalopathy. She survived Frank, with their three children, Harriet, studying at Balliol College, Oxford; Nicholas, studying at King’s College, Canterbury, and Katherine, at Bromley High School and already following her father’s musical interest.

The memorial Frank John Goodwin would most have liked for himself would surely have been the simple statment: ‘I tried my hardest.'

FP Marsh

[Brit.med.J., 1987,295,1149]

(Volume VIII, page 190)

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