Lives of the fellows

Edward Bernard Raftery

b.15 December 1932 d.16 July 1995
BSc Lond(1955) MB BS(1958) MRCS LRCP(1958) MRCP(1963) MD(1969) FRCP(1977) FACC(1979)

‘Jim’ Raftery was a consultant physician and cardiologist at Northwick Park who, in the course of his career as director of cardiovascular diseases at the MRC Clinical Research Centre, built up a large clinical research unit. He was born in London of Irish parents. His father, John, had been a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Jim’s early schooling was at Latymer’s. He went on to study medicine at King’s College, London. He was a friendly, gregarious individual, who participated fully in the social life of the medical school and was (and remained) a wonderful source of gossip. But he was also pugnacious and argumentative, with a quick temper. His outbursts were short lived and friendly relationships were always rapidly restored.

Jim was bright and ambitious. He worked hard and had a fine academic record. While a clinical student he was a demonstrator in pharmacology at King’s and at St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School. He was editor of the King’s College Hospital Gazette, an appropriate post because he read widely and enjoyed writing. He graduated with honours in October 1958. He went on to work for E Grainger Muir and then for R S Bruce Pearson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.373].

Jim decided as a student that he wanted to be a cardiologist, and for his third job he went to St Stephen’s Hospital to work for Raymond Daley [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.111 ] who had a major influence on Jim’s subsequent career. He missed National Service because of his asthma, and in 1960 went off to the USA for two years. He worked first in the department of clinical pharmacology at Cornell and then in the cardiology department at Johns Hopkins. This was an unusual step. At that time young physicians got their MRCP and established themselves at home before going off to America, so that they would have a job to return to. Jim was asked to stay in the States, but was determined to return to Britain.

His professional aspirations were clearly academic, and he spent the time in New York and Baltimore enhancing his prospects of a career in academic medicine. He seemed destined for a chair in medicine or cardiology.

When he returned to Britain he worked again with Raymond Daley and with Evan Jones [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.257] in the cardiology department at St Thomas’s Hospital. While a registrar in this department he made the decision to set up a general practitioner relief service in South London. This proved to be a great success and gave him financial independence, but the decision had a profound effect on his subsequent career. In the 1960s many senior clinicians considered the demands of a registrar’s post were incompatible with the effort required to set up such a commercial venture. Some were opposed to the principle of relief services of this kind. As a result, and quite undeservedly, I believe Jim lost some credibility as an academic physician. The damage was never fully repaired. But he was a workaholic and proved he was quite capable of carrying out the two roles satisfactorily. He moved from St Thomas’s to become a cardiac registrar at Hammersmith with John Goodwin, and then returned to King’s to work for four years as senior registrar to Sam Oram [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.398].

In 1970 Jim was appointed consultant physician and cardiologist at Northwick Park and director of cardiovascular diseases at the MRC Clinical Research Centre. He built up a large clinical research unit; between 1970 and 1995 he published over 300 papers. His unit combined first class clinical care with good research, particularly on hypertension and ischaemic heart disease.

His major contribution was in the area of ambulatory monitoring, initially for arrhythmias. He and Frank Stott developed a device for intra-arterial ambulatory monitoring of blood pressure, and used it to establish the circadian variation of blood pressure, both in normal subjects and patients with hypertension. With Tultul Lahiri he played a major role in the development of non-invasive cardiological techniques. He maintained his early interest in clinical pharmacology and ran trials on many new cardiovascular drugs, having a special interest in the evaluation of anti-hypertensive agents, for which ambulatory monitoring was such a useful tool.

He had close links with professional colleagues in many countries and he and his team were often invited to present their work at international meetings. He was a member of many overseas cardiological societies and colleges as well as the British Cardiac Society, and was on the editorial board of several cardiological journals. He was a founder member of the International Society for Ambulatory Monitoring.

He ran a happy group and was a strong supporter of the many young people who worked with him, most of whom enjoyed his flamboyant, entrepreneurial style and his great sense of humour. Because of his early experiences he was not trusted and considered to be something of a maverick and told his staff that time spent with him was not necessarily a passport to rapid preferment in cardiology. However he was a demanding boss who made sure that they got a sound training both in clinical medicine and research, and most did very well in their subsequent careers.

As a friend he was without artifice. One could speak plainly without fear of causing offence, and if one needed help he would provide it if he was able to do so. He was happy in his home life. He married twice - to Patty, with whom he had four children, but who sadly died after a long illness - and, for the last four years of his life, to Poii.

Jim spent his last day at a 50th reunion celebration at his old school, Latymer’s. He died of a myocardial infarct. He diagnosed this himself and called for assistance from his friend and colleague Tultul Lahiri. Although a local general practitioner was quickly on the scene nothing could be done.

Neil McIntyre

[Brit.med.J., 1995,311,1296]

(Volume X, page 396)

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