Lives of the fellows

Isaac Grayce

b.21 March 1911 d.23 September 1998
MB ChB Cape Town(1941) MD MRCP(1949) FRCP(1976)

Isaac Grayce, or ‘Izzie’ as he was known, was a senior physician at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa. He was born in Vilna, Lithuania, but his family was among those thousands of Jews who left Eastern Europe during the early part of this century. Most went to the USA, but the Grayce family were part of a significant minority who were attracted to South Africa, then a promising outpost of the British Empire.

In his family it was always recounted that Izzie had decided to become a doctor very early in his life. He was a very good student at school but his family could not afford to send him to university, so he worked with his brother, Jack, running a country store in the sand dunes of Acacia and Heathfield. Eventually in 1936, when he was 24 years old, with Jack’s help, he was able to study medicine at the University of Cape Town.

Izzie graduated in December 1941 when he was 30 years old. During 1942 he served as a houseman to J F Brock and L Gordon. He then served in the Army until the end of the war. After working for three years as a postgraduate student at the University of Cape Town he passed the clinical part of his MD examination. He went on to study in London where he obtained his MRCP in 1949. Thereafter he returned to commence private practice in Cape Town.

Isaac Grayce was a practising physician for 57 years. He combined private practice with work and teaching at Groote Schuur Hospital, where he was one of a small number of physicians who regarded their attachment to the university hospital as a privilege. He attended to his students and patients seven days a week for over five decades. Many hundreds of graduates at Cape Town studied under him and, while there were many anecdotes about him, there was always a consensus about his excellence as a teacher.

His great interest was in diabetes and he saw patients in the hospital’s diabetic clinic until ill health forced his retirement in June 1998. He gave up private practice in 1996.

Apart from medicine, Izzie’s passions were photography and music. His most dominant characteristic was his integrity; he was a purist who sought the underlying principles in all situations and then pursued and defended his point of view forcefully. He died suddenly in Cape Town at the age of 87 having dedicated his life to medical practice and education.

Alan Grayce
Solly Benatar
Ralph Kirsch

[South African Medical Journal 1999, Vol.89, No.4]

(Volume XI, page 232)

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