Lives of the fellows

Jeffrey Joseph Cream

b.15 January 1937 d.8 January 2008
BSc Manch(1958) MB ChB(1961) MRCP(1965) MD(1972) FRCP(1978)

Jeff Cream was a consultant dermatologist at the Charing Cross and West Middlesex hospitals, London, from 1975 to 2002. He grew up in Salford, the son of Ben, a watchmaker, and Ann. He was educated at Salford Grammar School and the University of Manchester, qualifying in 1961.

After house posts at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and Withington Hospital and some training in pathology, he did general medicine in Cardiff, obtained his MRCP in 1965, and took up a research post in haematology at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. He became interested in dermatology and was appointed registrar to the skin department at St Thomas’, where he was especially influenced by Hugh Wallace [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.520]. He completed senior registrar jobs at St John’s Hospital and the Middlesex Hospital, before being appointed as a consultant in Croydon in 1972. Three years later, he was appointed to the staff of the Charing Cross Hospital (with sessions at West Middlesex) as a colleague to Oliver Scott. Later he was joined by Stephen Breathnach and then Chris Bunker. Jeff Cream retired in 2002, but continued to do much-valued locum work at the Charing Cross, at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton. He provided valuable dermatology advice to the Ministry of Health of the Seychelles, making five trips between 1979 and 1983, and writing a report in 1982 on the management of leprosy there.

Jeff had a lifelong commitment to research. He was gained his MD in 1972 for original work on cutaneous vasculitis. As a consultant he continued to pursue this interest, but in latter years he published principally on acne and mollusca. He wrote over 90 papers, case reports, chapters or books.

Jeff Cream was a popular teacher and he imparted high quality dermatology teaching to undergraduates for over 30 years. Many Charing Cross students became dermatologists because of their experiences in Jeff’s clinics.

He was a consummate clinician, painstaking and exhaustive in differential diagnosis and investigation. These ‘physicianly’ skills were recognised by others, so he was often consulted by colleagues when they or their families were ill. His gentleness and compassion was recognised and appreciated by all of his patients. He was admired for his high standards, strong values, integrity and wisdom. He had a strong personal moral and ethical code, encompassing uncompromising principles of justice and fairness. He had no time for pretension. Colleagues frequently sought him out for advice about thorny and complicated non-clinical problems. He was as generous with his time as he was with life’s tangibles. His incisive opinions were frequently obtained for medico-legal cases.

Towards the end of his career, Jeff demonstrated great courage in dealing with a devastating challenge to his probity at the General Medical Council (GMC), but exhibited a self-controlled determination verging on stubbornness and, with the support of his family and friends, he was resoundingly exonerated (and the GMC severely criticised) following a judicial review. Also for the last 10 years of his life he stoically accepted the debilitations and limitations imposed by labile essential thrombocythaemia and its treatment with hydroxyurea and anagrelide. But the disease worsted him and he died from a fulminant blastic transformation that proved refractory to aggressive treatment.

Jeff Cream was a quiet, generous and unassuming man who was interested in ideas and other people. His principal recreations were classical music and reading, particularly modern history and American crime fiction. He was also interested in computer simulated flying and in retirement was able to spend more time enjoying chess and practising a long-standing interest in photography.

Even those who had known him for many years would rarely have heard him speak unprompted about himself or his own family, but to them he was devoted and a stalwart. He met his wife Naomi née Lewis, the daughter of Sir Aubrey Lewis [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.284], at Manchester Royal Infirmary. He approved of her campaigning for equal access for women to the doctors’ mess – at a time when women doctors were not allowed to dine with the men. Marriage and three daughters followed. She supported him unstintingly in his career and through the vicissitudes of his illness.

C B Bunker

[Brit.med.J.2008 336 1255]

(Volume XII, page web)

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