Lives of the fellows

William Charles Boake

b.27 January 1922 d.6 February 1990
BSc Melb(1942) MSc(1946) MB BCh(1948) MRCP Lond(1955) FACP(1968) FACC(1972) FRCP(1982)

Bill Boake was Australian born and bred in a medical family. He travelled extensively during his adult life in a constant search for new learning and research but never forgot his native land. His father was a dentist and his grandfather a general practitioner. He spent his first 25 years in Melbourne, Australia, where he gained a BSc and MSc en route to obtaining his medical degree. It was during this time that he had his first taste of the research laboratory, where he studied the haemagglutination process and the vaccinia virus. Both studies resulted in publications and for the next 35 years Bill continued to report his observations, both clinical and in the laboratory.

After an internship in Melbourne, Bill obtained a Nuffield Dominions travelling fellowship to the department of pathology at Oxford University 1950-52, where his interest in virus diseases led to a greater interest in immunological mechanisms of dermal necrosis in the guinea-pig. This was to stand him in good stead 15 years later during his coronary blood flow studies related to haemografted canine hearts. While in the pathology department he missed the patient contact of clinical medicine and so he elected to complete three years as a registrar at St Mary’s Hospital, London, followed by a year at the Brompton Hospital. It was at this time that he obtained his membership of the College. Shortly afterwards he spent a year in the department of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio USA, where he was engaged in clinical immunological research and teaching.

A latent interest in cardiology was rekindled and Bill returned to St Thomas’ Hospital, London, to study cardiology before returning to Melbourne to practice as a cardiologist for the next four years.

Research opportunities were not abundant in Australia in the early 1960s and so he moved to the University of Wisconsin medical school, where he spent the next 20 years as a practising cardiologist and researcher with ample access to laboratories for his studies. His laboratory studies initially centred around the systemic and coronary haemodynamic effects of various drugs and evolved into the development of techniques of non-suture vascular anastomosis rings for organ transplantation while working with the transplant teams doing canine heart transplantation. The effects of transplantation on coronary blood flow were important and Bill was deeply involved in these studies. But he did not dessert the clinical field, where he was principal investigator on a 4-year project training nurses to manage hypertension. Heart disease in the elderly was one of his clinical interests and he was a member of the cardiac pacemaker team, managing patients in the days when such devices were much less predictable or reliable than they are today. Patients with pacemakers required far more supervision and support - which they got from Bill.

Academic medicine in the USA is replete with committees and Bill had his fair share of them. Most notable was his service as a governor of the American College of Cardiology and to its committee on scientific awards, which he chaired in 1980-81. He was also a member of the American Heart Association’s council on hypertension and its council on clinical cardiology.

Bill left the University in 1982 to become chief of medicine at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin, and he subsquently spent some time as staff cardiologist at the King Fahad Hospital in Al Baha, Saudi Arabia. He eventually returned to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fort Lyon, Colorado, where he died suddenly early in 1990.

Bill's interests outside medicine were limited. He derived great happiness from his wife Elise, to whom he was married for 41 years, and his two children who grew up and thrived in the United States. Fishing was his favourite form of recreation and he built a sizeable dam on his property outside Yuba, Wisconsin, where he and his family spent their weekends. He stocked the stream with trout which provided him with great pleasure once they had grown. In his last years he delighted in fly-fishing in the streams and rivers of Colorado and New Mexico.

T C Meyer

(Volume IX, page 46)

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