Lives of the fellows

Duraiswami Gaspar

b.22 June 1934 d.10 December 2001
MB BS Madras(1958) MD(1963) DPM(1970) MRCP(1970) MRCPsych(1972) FRCPsych(1985) FRCP(1995)

Known to his family, friends and colleagues as ‘Sammy’, Duraiswami Gaspar was a first-rate pyschogeriatrician who had a pioneering role in the evolution of his specialty in the west Midlands and was highly respected as a clinician and a teacher.

Born in Madras, he received his education in that city and graduated from Stanley Medical College there in 1958 after a distinguished undergraduate career, culminating in his being awarded a prize as the ‘best outgoing student’. Subsequently, he trained as a general physician with an interest in cardiology, and was awarded his MD degree in 1963, at which time he was appointed as assistant to the professor of medicine at Madurai Medical College in Madras state.

However, in 1968 Sammy decided to leave India and to seek his fortune in the UK. He began a new career as a psychiatrist and held training grade appointments at Moorhaven Hospital, Ivybridge, West Park Hospital, Epsom and St George’s Hospital, Stafford. He went to Birmingham on the regional higher training scheme in 1970, trained in the psychiatric department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Midland Nerve Hospital, and was appointed consultant psychiatrist at Hollymoor Hospital, Birmingham, in 1973.

Within two years he agreed to take over the consultant responsibility for the care of those patients with dementia in the hospital and for all referrals of dementia. With a small and dedicated team, a service with a strong orientation towards care in the community was developed. Thenceforth his interest in and involvement with the specialty of old age psychiatry, as it in due course became, flourished, so that in the space of a few years it was engaging his whole-time commitment in the first class service for the east sector of Birmingham that he had developed based on Hollymoor Hospital and East Birmingham (now Heartlands) Hospital, and subsequently on the Little Bromwich Centre. Sammy undoubtedly exercised a pioneering role in the evolution of his specialty in the west Midlands, and brought to bear upon the development of a comprehensive service for the elderly mentally ill the energy, enterprise and dedication that were so characteristic of him.

A special fondness for teaching ensured that training was an important theme throughout his working life, and he devoted much time and energy to that endeavour, with a meticulous approach in preparing for the task in hand. As a pioneer in his field in the west Midlands, he was instrumental in recruiting junior staff in to old age psychiatry and had taken on a regional responsibility for training before the Royal College of Psychiatrists established its faculty of old age psychiatry. He was the first to represent the west Midlands on the faculty executive in its early years. During his tenure of office as chairman of the regional higher training sub-committee, the west Midlands was one of the first regions in the country to set up a separate training scheme for old age psychiatry, with its own recruitment process, training committee and programme. His commitment during those years in office was instrumental in a strong foundation being laid for this scheme, and it is part of his legacy that this strength has endured. Many current consultants in the region count their contact with him as a formative element in their developing careers. The major contribution he made to his specialty was recognized with the conferring of the fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1985, and he was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 1995.

Sammy richly merited the high esteem and respect in which he was held. He was a fine clinician and a caring compassionate doctor. As a colleague he was strong in support, a team player, fully identified with the organization and putting his best efforts into achieving its ends, inspiring devotion and loyalty from those engaged with him. Independent of thought, he was always very much his own man, and known to his circle as one with many prime qualities and virtues. His companionship warmed us with his lively intelligence, ready wit and perception, and with the humour he so readily found in the quirks and oddities of the human condition.

Following his retirement in 1999 he kept up his lifelong interest in politics and devoted his energies to concert-going, creative writing, computer studies, travelling abroad, and, above all, to the interests and well-being of his family. Family life was always of central importance to him, and he was a loving and devoted husband, who cherished and took great pride in the achievements of his five children, four of whom followed him into medicine. It is particularly sad that his wife Margaret should have lost him within a few weeks of her retirement from general practice, just as they were settling down to the prospect of a leisured retirement together.

Tom Fenton
Elizabeth M Gregg

[Brit.med.J., 2002,324,921]

(Volume XI, page 216)

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