Lives of the fellows

Frank Ian Lee

b.31 December 1930 d.13 May 2007
MB BS Lond(1957) MRCS LRCP(1957) MRCP(1959) FRCP(1975

Frank Ian Lee was the first gastro-enterologist in Blackpool and became one of the most respected and best-known gastro-enterologists in the north of England. An outstanding clinical researcher, he built up the gastro-enterology service and founded the first purpose-built district general hospital unit in England.

After studying medicine at the London Hospital, he held a series of junior posts at the hospital, including house officer to Lord Brain [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.60] and registrar to Donald Hunter [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.288]. In 1965 he was the British Postgraduate Medical Federation travelling fellow at Harvard.

In 1967 he was appointed as a consultant physician at Blackpool. Frank was a self-effacing man. Known as ‘Ian’ until he arrived at Blackpool, he soon found there were two other physicians there with the same name. He decided to revert to his first name, and became known as ‘Frank’.

In Blackpool he introduced fibre-optic endoscopy and was soon involved in the many trials of ranitidine, bismuth and then omeprazole, which funded the establishment of the gastro-enterology unit. His study of duodenal ulcers showed that there was a better outcome after treatment with bismuth than rantidine, an observation not explained until the discovery of the role of helicobacter pylori in the pathogenesis of ulcers. He wrote a seminal description of the rare angiosarcoma of the liver in workers in a local vinyl chloride plant, papers on the epidemiology of Crohn’s disease in Blackpool, and on the value of faecal occult blood testing in screening for colorectal cancer.

Frank was the clinical tutor and set up the medical library and postgraduate centre in Blackpool. Frank valued the society of his colleagues and became president of the North of England Gastroenterology Society in 1985 and was a founder member of Lancashire Gastroenterologists (the LAGS), which met to discuss difficult cases over convivial dinners.

Frank was a staunch Methodist, a keen sportsman and an expert ornithologist. He could expound knowledgeably on the birds of the Ribble estuary and travelled to Africa and Hungary to bird-watch.

Frank had a wry wit and called his advanced pancreatic cancer “a gastro-enterologist’s own goal”. He bore his illness without complaint. He leaves his wife Pam and four children ¬- Michael, John, Rosemary and Philip. As befitting a lifelong sports enthusiast, at his funeral his coffin exited Lytham Methodist Church to the sounds of BBC’s Match of the Day theme tune.

P Isaacs

[Brit.med.J., 2007 334 1327]

(Volume XII, page web)

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