Lives of the fellows

Reuben Sougin Mibashan

b.4 January 1927 d.19 January 2001
BSc Cape Town(1946) MB ChB(1949) MD(1954) MRCP(1956) FRCP(1977)

Reuben Mibashan was a distinguished professor of haematology at King's College School of Medicine until his retirement in 1990, thereafter he was awarded the title of emeritus professor. His interests within haematology, though wide-ranging, were focused on the problems of haemostasis. He was recognised to have particular expertise in the inherited disorders of coagulation.

He was born in Jerusalem, the only son of Jacob and Sunamith Mibashan. The family emigrated to Cape Town in 1928, where subsequently Jacob Mibashan qualified as a medical doctor, and where Reuben grew up and was educated. He was an exceptionally brilliant scholar, matriculated at 15 with honours, and was fluent in English, Afrikaans and Hebrew. During his early years at university he taught Hebrew to a group of his fellow students. He was a talented violinist, and his love of music and his proficiency as an instrumentalist gave him joy all his life. He enrolled as a medical student at the University of Cape Town in 1943, and graduated with first class honours in 1949. He won many honours and awards, including the University gold medal, and during his training received prize medals in most subjects.

He held a number of posts in the department of medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, and at an early stage developed the skill of integrating meticulous clinical observation with carefully executed laboratory research, an attribute that remained the hallmark of all his subsequent work. The basis of his MD degree was the metabolic and haematological observations made in patients with gout.

In 1955 he was awarded a Nuffield Medical Research fellowship at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, where he worked with Sir John McMichael [Munk's Roll, Vol.IX, p.341] and E Bywaters. There followed further appointments in Cape Town, before a year spent as the Eli Lily fellow in hematology, working with M Wintrobe at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Not suprisingly he was voted the best clinical teacher by the students of that medical school.

After returning to Cape Town, he was appointed to the post of director of the haematology service at Groote Schuur Hospital and senior lecturer in medicine at the University. He held these posts for five years.

In 1970 he emigrated to the UK, initially taking up an appointment as senior lecturer in haematology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, where he remained for five years. In 1975 he went to King's, first as senior lecturer, then as reader and as professor in 1989.

Collaborative research was a talent that he was able to develop at an early stage in his career, both with the members of his own research team, and notably with those working in other and related fields. This ability was in no small measure due to his demeanour. Ever courteous and gentle with colleagues, always inspiring them with the clarity and originally of his thoughts, yet generously leaving his co-workers with the impression that the ideas came from them. Praise came more easily from him than unnecessary criticism, and he had a talent for getting the best out of people.

At King's he made significant contributions to the management of haemophilia, of anticoagulant therapy, and most notably, in the area of prenatal diagnosis of bleeding disorders and their treatment. He worked closely with a number of eminent obstetricians who were expert in the perinatal field, including Charles Rodeck, Stuart Campbell, Kipros Nicolaides and many others. He was able to complement their careful foetal sampling techniques with meticulous analyses of coagulation moieties performed with precision on tiny samples. This was the most productive phase of his career. Of his large corpus of publications, 78 ground-breaking papers came from work done in this period.

He was recognised to be an international authority in the field of inherited disorders of haemostasis, and contributed to many meetings and committees both as speaker and as chairman.

He was universally acknowledged to be a kind and accomplished teacher. His patients found him always ready to give a sympathetic ear, to listen carefully, and to give sound and understanding advice.

He was married to Ruth Horner, a paediatrician, in 1973 and they enjoyed a close and happy marriage with many shared interests. He was an observant Jew, but tolerant of those who were less pious than he. He was a cultured man, widely read who had a great love of language. His conversation, and his writings express ideas precisely, but never dryly. He enjoyed the company of his friends and his warmth and good humour made him a delight to be with.

Sadly, poor health forced him to retire early and subsequently a series of severe illnesses curtailed his activity. He remained cheerful and alert, and it was typical that in that last phase of serious pulmonary incapacity, showing exemplary stoicism, he took a group of students on a teaching ward round expecting them to detect all his physical signs, and to draw the right inferences from them, as he would have done in their place. A poignant example of his excellence as a teacher which prevailed even to the last.

Harold Gamsu

(Volume XI, page 395)

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