Lives of the fellows

Keith Breden Taylor

b.16 April 1924 d.31 December 2006
BA Oxon(1946) BM BCh MA(1949) MRCP(1951) DM(1955) FRCP(1970

Deeply committed to the concept of global medical education and Caribbean regional development, Keith Breden Taylor, the former vice-chancellor of St George’s University, Grenada, helped transform the university from a small medical school to a centre for world-class learning. A quintessential English gentleman who gave and received respect from all he met, he reveled in human discovery and discourse. Above all, he was a visionary, with a quiet determination to get things done.

He was born in London, the son of Francis Henry Taylor, a civil servant, and Florence née Latham, the daughter of a businessman. He was educated at King’s College School, Wimbledon, and then went on to study physiology and biochemistry at Magdalen College, Oxford. He graduated from the school of clinical medicine in Oxford in 1949. He excelled during his clinical studies and was awarded the Radcliffe Infirmary prizes in medicine and pathology. He received his DM in 1955 for a thesis entitled: ‘Distribution of certain substances between blood and cerebrospinal fluid’.

After junior posts in London, he returned to Oxford as a registrar and took up his first academic appointment as a lecturer in medicine at the Nuffield department of clinical medicine, a post he held until 1959. A Rockefeller travelling fellowship took Keith to the University of Chicago as a visiting assistant professor. He then returned to the Central Middlesex Hospital as an honorary consultant and an honorary member of the Medical Research Council in the gastro-enterology research unit.

In 1963 Keith then moved back across the Atlantic to take up the positions of director of gastro-enterology and associate professor of medicine at Stanford University. In 1966 Keith was appointed the George de Forest Barnett professor of medicine at Stanford. Between 1968 and 1978 he served as the vice chairman of the department of medicine and the chief of medical service, Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital. During his tenure at Stanford Keith travelled widely and served as a visiting professor to the universities of Wisconsin, Boston, Harvard, Rochester, Washington, Baylor, Columbia, New Mexico, Natal, McMaster, Adelaide, Queensland and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne.

Keith published over 100 papers and abstracts in international peer reviewed journals such as Nature, Science, The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal, Gut, Gastroenterology and Clinical Science. He also published nine book chapters and was widely regarded as the leading authority on many areas of gastro-enterology and in particular vitamin B12 absorption and pernicious anemia.

During Keith’s illustrious career he gained a wide appreciation of the role of different universities in the many varied countries he worked in. This background was ideal for his final academic challenge, as vice-chancellor of St George’s University in Grenada, West Indies, a post he took up in 1989. During the next 10 years he transformed a thriving school of medicine into a university through the creation of additional schools of arts and sciences and graduate studies. Under Keith’s leadership there was a substantial change in the composition of the student body. When Keith arrived most of the students were from the USA. The university is now truly international, with students from more than 80 different countries.

He was the inspiration behind the creation of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), a not-for-profit charitable trust. Keith served as its founding president and chaired WINDREF’s institutional review board for the first eight years. He attracted many notable Grenadian citizens to serve on the board, including Sir Paul Scoon, Grenada’s second governor general.

During Keith’s career he made many lifelong friends. His global experience and connections helped to shape and evolve St George’s University and WINDREF in recent years. Many notable scholars, including Edmond Fischer (Nobel laureate for medicine in 1992), Sir Kenneth Stuart and Sir Malcolm Macnaughton, joined various boards because of their friendship and links with Keith.

Keith’s generosity and amusing scholarly anecdotes will be sorely missed by anyone fortunate enough to have met him. Those of us who worked with him will find it difficult to replace his friendship, professionalism, integrity and honest support.

Keith leaves behind his four children - Sebastian, Nicholas, Daniel and Kate, six grandchildren and his companion, Patricia Staniszewski. He died at his home in Sussex surrounded by family and friends.

Calum N L Macpherson
Margaret A Lambert

(Volume XII, page web)

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