Lives of the fellows

Varazdad Melikian

b.24 February 1931 d.16 November 2006
MB BS Lond(1959) MRCS LRCP(1959) MRCP Edin(1966) MRCP(1968) FRCP Edin(1975) FRCP(1981)

Varazdad Melikian, known as ‘Vic’, was a gastroenterologist in Birmingham. A gifted physician, his enthusiasm for medicine inspired all who came in contact with him. He was born into an Armenian family in Abadan, Iran, where his father was an engineer for the Anglo-Iranian oil company. Following schooling in Abadan, where he excelled in sport, especially swimming, Vic was sent to England to train as a doctor. After medical school at UCH, where he enjoyed rugby and gained a prize in surgery, he did house jobs at Nottingham General Hospital, and senior house officer and registrar posts in Nottingham and at Sheffield Royal Infirmary. During this time he gained a huge clinical experience, not only in general medicine but also in gastroenterology and clinical haematology.

In 1969, he moved to Birmingham, where he was to spend the rest of his life. He was appointed senior registrar in medicine and spent time at Dudley Road (now City) Hospital, working for Alex Paton, and at the General Hospital, working for Trevor Cooke [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.109]. He was appointed consultant physician to Dudley Road Hospital in 1972, specialising in gastroenterology and clinical haematology, as well as performing general medical duties. As a result he had a huge workload, which would not be allowed in today’s job plans. Although he thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of clinical haematology, it was realised that the workload was unreasonable and after ten years he concentrated on gastroenterology.

In collaboration with Alex Paton and surgical colleagues, especially Peter Bevan, Vic developed gastroenterology services at Dudley Road Hospital and set up the endoscopy unit. Despite his interest in specialist medicine, Vic was always interested in medicine in its broadest sense. He was a superb physician and remained committed to the general medical take and the whole variety of patients that could be admitted. He felt all specialist physicians should have a good grounding in general medicine. He regarded the acute take as a marvellous teaching opportunity for students and junior doctors. He was proud of the fact that consultant physicians at Dudley Road Hospital always did post take ward rounds, long before the practice became expected everywhere.

Vic was a larger than life character who had tremendous enthusiasm for medicine, which he was able to transmit not only to students and doctors but also to fellow hospital professionals, to other hospital staff and to patients. He was very popular with patients for whom nothing was too much trouble. He was very much the good Samaritan who would go out of his way to help patients or colleagues. He was fondly remembered by patients who continued to ask about him long after he retired in 1996. But Vic made the greatest impression on his medical students and junior doctors. He was an enthusiastic and effective teacher who inspired generations of Birmingham medics. His junior jobs were always highly sought after. Once a junior doctor had worked for him and had made the grade, Vic was fiercely loyal to and protective of that doctor for the rest of their career.

Vic was one of the best-known doctors at Dudley Road Hospital and things always happened when he was around. His organisational skills were not always the best and an air of general disorder surrounded anything he was organising. However, he had such charm and was so popular that people were only too glad to help so that everything was sorted out in the end.

Vic was held in high regard by his colleagues in the West Midlands region, who elected him president of the West Midlands Physicians Association, president of the Midlands Gastroenterological Society and regional adviser for the College. He was a great supporter of the College and encouraged young physicians to get involved in its activities. He was heavily involved with the MRCP examination as examiner, exam host and organiser of courses for the exam.

Vic had an interest in and fascination for medicine which lasted until his death, but he had other interests – classical music, opera, walking and politics. However, his other major enthusiasm was for his family. In 1970 he married Florence née Wilkinson, an anaesthetist he had met in Nottingham. They had a daughter (a trainee anaesthetist), a son and three grandchildren. Vic was proud of his Armenian roots and he was delighted to be able to visit Armenia for the first time in 2001.

Vic had a passion for life so it was tragic that his last years were blighted by the malignant disease that finally killed him. Many thought that against all the odds, Vic would beat his illness because he had such a determination to get better. Sadly, it was not to be.

Brian Cooper

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List