Lives of the fellows

Frank Clifford Rose

b.29 August 1926 d.1 November 2012
MRCS LRCP(1949) MB BS Lond(1949) DCH(1951) MRCP(1954) FRCP(1971)

Frank Clifford Rose was director of the academic unit of neurosciences at Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School, London, and one of the leading British neurologists of the 20th century. He was born in London, the youngest of seven children of an immigrant Jewish family in the East End. His parents, James Lewis Rose and Clare Rose née Field, ran a bicycle shop. Frank’s school, the Central Foundation Boys’ School in Cowper Street, was evacuated at the outbreak of the Second World War when he was 13 years old. Later, he would say: ‘It was the making of me.’ He won a scholarship to medical school, starting pre-clinical studies at King’s College in the Strand, followed by clinical studies at Westminster Hospital, from where he qualified in 1949.

His early medical career, in paediatrics, general medicine, cardiology and in clinical rheumatology and research, was followed by an appointment as a senior medical registrar and clinical tutor at Westminster Hospital. He then moved to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square, as a senior house physician and then a resident medical officer. In 1960 he was appointed as a senior registrar in neurology at St George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner with Denis Williams [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX p.587] as his consultant. It was during this appointment that Frank married Angela Juliet Halsted, a musician, who would play an essential part in his success.

He developed an interest in ophthalmology and was a senior clinical assistant in the physicians’ clinic at Moorfields Hospital (from 1962 to 1965) and a consultant neurologist to the medical ophthalmology Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital (from 1963 to 1985). He also worked in speech and language disorders, consulting at the John Horniman School in Worthing and the Moor House School, Oxted (from 1965 to 1970).

In 1965, he was appointed as the first consultant neurologist to the new Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham, becoming physician in charge (from 1977) and director of the academic unit of neurosciences at Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School, from 1984 to his retirement from the NHS in 1991. The unit was later the foundation for the first chair in neurology at Imperial College. Frank also developed a very successful private practice in Harley Street, and was consulted by many patients from around the world. He was chairman of the Independent Doctors Federation from 1992 to 1994.

From the outset, Frank wanted to establish neurosciences research at Charing Cross. In addition to his interests in neuro-ophthalmology and speech disorders, he embraced three areas that were not fashionable at the time, but have since become of major international importance – stroke, migraine and motor neurone disease. He worked tirelessly and very effectively to raise funds for this research. He established an emergency stroke ambulance service – an idea well ahead of its time – and was part of the team that, for the first time, imaged the brain of a patient within seven hours of a stroke, using the newly-developed positron emission tomography (PET) technique. Observations such as this led to the recognition of the ischaemic penumbra (or the area surrounding the ischaemic event), and the concept that brain tissue around infarcts was potentially salvageable.

His interest in migraine, an important and extremely common neurological disorder, but paradoxically of interest to only a small following of neurologists, led to royal patronage of his clinic at Charing Cross, as the Princess Margaret Migraine Clinic, which continues to flourish. Many headache experts from around the world visited the clinic and some were trained in headache under his guidance. He was chairman of the Migraine Trust (from 1988 to 1996), a founder member of the European Headache Federation and of the International Headache Society. He co-edited Headache Quarterly from 1980 to 2001. He was twice the recipient of the Harold Wolff award of the American Association for the Study of Headache (1981 and 1986) and the distinguished clinician award (1986), describing the extraordinary and singular response of a form of headache (paroxysmal hemicrania) to the drug indomethacin.

He was also one of very few British neurologists who had an interest in motor neurone disease, and many patients travelled from all over the UK to be seen at Charing Cross. He established an important and productive research laboratory for the investigation of the condition, which became the foundation of the European Motor Neurone Disease DNA bank, and became the first medical adviser to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Frank was also an important and vital figure in the World Federation of Neurology (WFN), an organisation founded by the renowned British neurologist Macdonald Critchley [Munk’s Roll, Vol. X, p.83]. He strongly supported Frank, who established the WFN research group on migraine and headache, and later became secretary treasurer-general at a time when another towering figure in world neurology, John Walton (Lord Walton of Detchant), was WFN chairman. Frank raised a lot of funds for WFN, putting the organisation on a sure financial footing, and was editor of World Neurology from 1990 to 1998.

Frank’s links through the World Federation of Neurology with the National Institutes of Health at Bethesda led to a close relationship with the American neuroepidemiologist Bruce Schoenberg, whom he succeeded as editor of the journal of Neuroepidemiology.

Frank was also active in a number of important London-based medical organisations. He was president of the Medical Society of London (from 1984 to 1985) and president of the section of neurology of the Royal Society of Medicine (from 1990 to 1991), during which time the membership of the section increased substantially.

In addition to all these activities, Frank was an author, co-author, editor and co-editor of more than 75 books on neurological subjects. His forte was to invite the best neurologists from the UK and around the world, currently the most active in their specialty, to an ‘experts only’ symposium, often at the Medical Society of London, leading to authoritative publications on many and varied neurological topics. In addition, Frank had an abiding interest in medical history, and had a fine collection of medical first editions. He became the founding editor of the Journal of the History of Neurosciences, receiving its lifetime contribution award in 2002. His last published work was History of British Neurology (London, Imperial College Press, 2012).

Many however, will perhaps remember Frank for his extraordinary energy and enthusiasm for life. He was truly international, a bon viveur and raconteur, an expert on wine and particularly champagne, with a fine cellar, and a most generous host. He was survived by Angela and by their three sons.

Russell Lane
Paul Davies

[The Times 3 January 2013; Brit.med.J., 2013 346 417; Migraine Trust www.migrainetrust.org/news-obituary-dr-frank-clifford-rose-16174 – accessed 22 April 2013; World Federation of Neurology www.wfneurology.org/cache/downloads/7r22uwmxcnc4woss4gogg884c/Obituary%20Clifford%20Rose.pdf – accessed 22 April 2013; American Neurological Association www.aneuroa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3727 – accessed 22 April 2013]

(Volume XII, page web)

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