Lives of the fellows

Neil Procter Smith

b.12 December 1946 d.14 March 1996
MB BS Lond(1969) MRCP(1973) FRCP(1987) FRCPath(1993) FRCR

Neil Smith was a consultant dermatologist at St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin and honorary senior lecturer in histopathology at the Institute of Dermatology, continuing at St Thomas’s Hospital after the closure of St John’s in Lisle Street. Smith, the son of a Manchester bank manager, was educated at Manchester Grammar School and went on to University College London and St George’s Hospital.

After general medical training and gaining his MRCP in 1973, he started training in dermatology at St George’s with Stephen Gold and Ken Sanderson. The interest of the latter in histopathology of the skin introduced Smith to what was to become the focal point of his professional activity. As a senior registrar at St John’s he studied with George Wells and Edward Wilson Jones, the leading exponents of skin histopathology at that time.

After his appointment to the staff of St John’s in 1979 he worked closely with P D Samman [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.459] and Margaret Spittle in the special clinic founded to study and treat cutaneous lymphomas. He used his histopathology expertise to advantage in developing the skin tumour clinic whose management he took over on the retirement of Samman. Under Smith’s guidance the unit became the leading centre for the treatment of skin lymphomas and other cutaneous tumours, participating in many international prospective trials and introducing new therapies. The unit was the first in the UK to employ extracorporeal photo-chemotherapy for the treatment of mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome.

Smith also practised general dermatology and his intimate knowledge of the world literature, his meticulous clinical management and his remarkable diagnostic ability led to his being greatly in demand for opinions on patients and on difficult histology sections. He was a very active teacher at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. His lectures and demonstrations were often enhanced by his own very clear line drawings of pathology, a feature which stemmed from his activities as a young doctor when he supplemented his income by designing and illustrating record covers.

In 1993 he was awarded a fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists for his contributions to pathology. He was the only dermatologist to be honoured as a fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists, acknowledging his wide experience and interest in the multi-disciplinary management of skin malignancies.

His international standing was such that he fulfilled a punishing programme of travelling to lecture in many countries. He was an honorary member of the French and Austrian dermatological societies and gave regular talks and lectures in fluent German.

He was a strong supporter of the Dowling Club, a society founded by Geoffrey Dowling [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.163] and Hugh Wallace [Munk's Roll, Vol.VIII, p.520] to encourage the teaching of junior staff in dermatology. Smith was the club’s president from 1990 to 1991, an honour which he and the members prized greatly. His many publications were chiefly on the histopathology of the skin and the management of cutaneous lymphomas.

His premature death from the complications of bacterial endocarditis deprived his colleagues and patients of a much loved and respected friend.

Andrew Griffiths

[The Independent, 13 May 1996; Brit.J.Dermatology, 1996:134:995; Brit.med.J., 1996,312,1295]

(Volume X, page 454)

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