Lives of the fellows

Howard John Rogers

b.18 June 1943 d.30 March 1987
MRCS LRCP(1968) BChir Cantab(1968) MA MB(1969) PhD Lond(1972) MRCP(1973) FRCP(1985)

Howard Rogers, professor of clinical pharmacology at Guy’s Hospital medical school, died at the age of 43. His early death was a tragic loss not only to his family but also to his subject and his medical school.

He was born at Crayford, the son of George Rogers and his wife Vivien Welch, and was educated at Sidcup and Chislehurst Grammar School. He won an open major scholarship in natural sciences to Downing College, Cambridge, and an open clinical scholarship to Guy’s Hospital medical school. After qualification his first appointment was as house physician to Ralph Kauntze and Charles Joiner. He showed an early interest in the action and use of drugs and started laboratory research at Guy’s while still a student. From 1969-72 he was Governor’s research scholar in the department of pharmacology at Guy’s and was awarded a PhD for his work on the cellular action of psychotropic drugs. His colleagues in the laboratory rapidly became aware that Howard was a gifted research worker with a most valuable obsessive streak. He rapidly came to appreciate the finer points of such difficult techniques as amino acid analysis and the measurement of drug levels using high performance liquid chromatography.

Howard was firmly of the opinion that the practice of clinical pharmacology within a medical school required a firm grounding in general medicine, with practical experience in the use of drugs, and he was appointed junior lecturer in medicine and later medical registrar at Guy’s.

In 1974 he returned to clinical pharmacology and became the Medical Research Council’s Wellcome travelling fellow, in Paul Talalay’s department at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He fitted in well with the American scene and formed lasting friendships with several of his colleagues, in particular with Paul Leitman, professor and head of clinical pharmacology. On returning to Guy’s he became, successively, lecturer, senior lecturer and reader, and - on the retirement of J R Trounce - was elected to the chair of clinical pharmacology, which he held for two and a half years until his death.

Howard Rogers combined to a remarkable extent a formidable intellect with an ability to deal with everyday affairs. After obtaining his doctorate his main scientific interests were in pharmacokinetics, where he achieved a considerable reputation, and at the time of his death his particular interest was in the kinetics of cytotoxic drugs and the relationship to cancer chemotherapy. In addition to his commitment to general medicine, he worked regularly in the oncology clinic and developed a considerable expertise in cancer chemotherapy. His interests, however, extended over a wide range of subjects. The institution of the Guy’s drug research unit, where he was in medical charge, resulted in his becoming involved in a variety of Phase I studies, and his extensive knowledge and common sense proved invaluable in this difficult area.

He wrote fluently and easily and published, in his short career, well over a hundred papers as well as being the leading author of five books, including the definitive Textbook of Clinical Pharmacology 1981.

He was a good organizer and was very active in teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. He instigated an intercalated BSc in clinical pharmacology at Guy’s which proved both popular and successful, and in a relatively short time a remarkable number of postgraduate students passed through his hands.

His integrity enabled him to form a sensible and fruitful relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, at a time when some looked on such relationships with suspicion, and his ability to see reality in complicated situations led to his to being in increasing demand on committees and advisory bodies.

On first acquaintance he sometimes appeared a little brusque and retiring, but his humanity was never far beneath the surface. Although he disliked cant, hypocrisy and stupidity, and was very good at diagnosing all three, he respected human dignity, was exceptionally pleasant and gentle with his junior staff and never pulled the carpet from under their feet.

Howard’s intellect illuminated everything to which he addressed himself, yet he was never cold and analytical. He was in fact a sensitive, kind and understanding person, who could take enormous trouble over those who came to him for advice or with problems, be they patients, colleagues or juniors. He had a considerable sense of humour, albeit on the dry side.

Like many other highly intelligent people, Howard Rogers had a sensitive appreciation of the arts. His knowledge of modern literature was extensive, his love and understanding of classical music, particularly Bach and Mozart, and - strangely enough - Prokofiev, was profound.

He married Moira O’Boyle in 1968, whose family came from County Mayo, and they had three daughters. Howard was very much a family man and outside his work most of his activities were centred on his home. He was not an enthusiastic traveller and, apart from the requirements of his work, limited himself to an annual holiday in Ireland, a country for which he had a great affection.

Howard was a religious man, as were his family. Although his faith was rarely apparent on casual acquaintance it was a major unifying factor in a complex personality.

JR Trounce

[Brit.med.J., 1987,294,1425; Lancet, 1987 1,932; Times, 9 Apr 1987]

(Volume VIII, page 424)

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