Lives of the fellows

Neil Arthur John Hamer

b.17 December 1927 d.6 November 2003
MB BS Lond(1951) MRCS LRCP(1951) MRCP(1953) MD(1959) PhD(1965) FRCP(1969)

John Hamer was one of the brightest young cardiologists of his generation and, when in 1965 he was appointed consultant cardiologist at St Bartholomew's Hospital, a brilliant future seemed assured. Sadly, in 1973 he suffered a severe stroke. He was born in London and at school was interested in classics and natural history. His teachers encouraged him to take up medicine and he qualified at King's College Hospital in 1951. He met Ellen at the Valentine's Day ball at King's in 1950 and they were married in 1952.

Clifford Hoyle [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.279] and Sam Oram [Munk's Roll, Vol.IX, p.378] awoke his interest in chest medicine and cardiology and he became registrar to Evan Bedford [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.28] at the National Heart Hospital, then the Mecca of cardiology. Paul Wood [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.456] suggested that he should work for a spell in Tuft's University, Boston, in 1957 and he moved with the team to the Glover Clinic, Philadelphia, where he was offered a permanent post. Family and friends drew him back to the UK in 1960. In 1962, he was about to take up an appointment with Paul Wood, the most exciting teacher of his time, when Paul died suddenly. Ellen was expecting a baby and their son was named Paul. John became senior lecturer and then assistant director at the Institute of Cardiology.

In 1965, Graham Hayward [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.255] encouraged him to apply for the post of consultant cardiologist at St Bartholomew's Hospital. He was an enthusiastic teacher and really sparkled at clinical meetings. He published papers on almost every aspect of cardiology, but gradually began to focus on clinical pharmacology and the scientific basis of drug action on the heart muscle, which was a rather neglected field at that time.

His stroke in 1973 resulted in a left hemiplegia and he moved into the department of clinical pharmacology at Bart's. His work on the mechanisms of heart failure, the bioavailability of Digoxin and the mode of action of the beta blockers continued. He helped to launch the careers of many young doctors who kept in close touch with him over the years and came back to him for advice and support.

John was a quiet gentle man with a lively sense of fun. Two qualities stand out: in adversity his courage never failed him, and in an age when junior staff could be treated quite harshly, he is remembered with affection for his patience and kindness. After his stroke he struggled to work for 12 years and to attend meetings, where friends would be greeted warmly.

Because of failing health, he retired at the age of 58 and in 1988 he moved to Lyme Regis, where he rekindled his interest in ancient history. Ellen, his two sons, two daughters and seven grandchildren, supported him through periods of increasing disability until his death on 6 November 2003.

RCP editor

[Brit.med.J.,2004,328,352]

(Volume XI, page 237)

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