Lives of the fellows

Robert John Oriel Davies

b.16 November 1961 d.19 November 2010
BM Southampton(1985) MRCP(1988) DM(1993) FRCP(1999)

Robert John Oriel Davies was professor of respiratory medicine at Oxford. He was born in Chertsey, Surrey, the son of Ronald John Lewis Davies, a pharmacist, and Claire Davies. He was educated at Rushcliffe Comprehensive School, Nottingham, and then went on to study medicine at Southampton.

After graduating with honours and a clinical distinction, he completed junior posts in Wessex and Nottingham. He then moved to Oxford for higher postgraduate training. It was during these posts that he developed a research interest in sleep apnoea (the subject of his doctorate), and later in pleural diseases, such as empyema, effusions and pneumothorax.

He was passionate about wanting to develop and promote evidence-based care for respiratory patients, setting up a successful respiratory clinical trials unit at the Churchill Hospital. From there he coordinated several multi-centre studies looking at empyema, malignant pleural effusions and sleep medicine. His enthusiasm and drive generated a successful network of collaborating departments throughout the UK, and he was instrumental in the production of highly influential British Thoracic Society guidelines for the management of pleural disease, further contributing to his international reputation.

He wrote many major, practice-changing, contributions to the fields of pleural disease and sleep apnoea, including papers in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet. These are highly cited and influential in respiratory medicine. There is no doubt that an incalculable number of patients have benefited from the results of his research.

This enthusiasm for improving clinical practice through meticulous research rubbed off on his juniors and inspired many to higher research degrees.

Having learnt piano and clarinet at school, he continued with his music and was an accomplished jazz saxophonist. He left a wife, Penelope Ann Handford, professor of biochemistry at Oxford, whom he married in 1989, and two children, Philli and Alex. His untimely death was a great loss, not only to his family and colleagues, but also to the international respiratory community.

John Stradling

[Brit.med.J., 2011 342 1026]

(Volume XII, page web)

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