Lives of the fellows

Geoffrey Noel Chandler

b.24 December 1923 d.317 November 2013
BA Oxon(1944) BM BCh(1946) MRCP(1948) DM(1958) FRCP(1968)

Geoffrey Chandler was a consultant physician in Leeds. He was a man with a very considerable intellect, a large engaging personality and an enthusiasm for all things, which he directed particularly to medicine and to his family.

He was born in Brompton-on-Swale, Yorkshire, but for most of his childhood lived in Worcester, where his father, Frank Ewart Chandler, was director of education. His mother, Gladys Chandler née Wood, was the daughter of a haberdasher. Geoffrey gained a scholarship to Worcester Royal Grammar School and from there he won the Weir memorial scholarship to University College, Oxford, in 1941. He enjoyed varsity life, both academic and sporting: he rowed and played cricket.

After qualifying he spent some time in Singapore as a captain in the RAMC. He returned to his post at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, and it was there that he met Pamela Lawrence, who was working as a ward sister. They married in Oxford in 1948 and set up house in Headington. Whilst they lived there the first of his daughters was born, and he obtained the MRCP.

In 1950 he moved up to Leeds as a senior registrar working much of the time for Stanley Jack Hartfall [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.251], a general physician and rheumatologist. Throughout his clinical life Geoffrey maintained an interest and expertise in rheumatology, but by now knew that his preferred specialty must be gastroenterology. In 1954 he was a research fellow in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He took part in the clinical gastroenterology service and conducted research studies in animals and in man on the absorption of fat from the small intestine. These studies were submitted as a thesis for his DM. His reputation as a gastrointestinal physician of considerable promise led to an appointment at the Central Middlesex Hospital working for Francis Avery Jones [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web].

In 1960 he obtained the post of consultant physician back up in Leeds. As was common in those days, he successfully looked after 50 beds in Leeds and another 50 in Wakefield. Later he withdrew from Wakefield and concentrated on building up the medical services provided at Chapel Allerton Hospital, Leeds. This he accomplished by dint of his considerable powers as a clinician, but also by hard work, by his organisational skills and by his ability to bring out the best in those who worked for and with him. Not only did he provide medical services of a very high standard, but also introduced a standard of clinical efficiency which today’s NHS could only strive for. In this latter regard he was helped by two excellent surgeons, Geoffrey Wilson and David Pratt, and two excellent radiologists, John Lamb and Hans Herlinger. Clinical investigation of his patients was never delayed, any surgical intervention speedily arranged and successfully achieved. Communication was paramount to Geoffrey. Clinic letters, written in impeccable English, and ward discharge summaries arrived with the patients’ general practitioners within 48 hours.

His and Chapel Allerton Hospital’s reputation burgeoned. His comprehensive knowledge of medicine was maintained by an avid interest in the medical literature, helped by an almost photographic memory allied to a keen analytical mind. Moreover, he read patients very well and knew how to talk to them. These qualities were recognised, and he became the doctor’s doctor.

He attracted the best of trainees. He taught them well by example and tutorial. He encouraged them to engage in research projects. Their loyalty to Geoffrey was returned, and he always took an interest in their immediate and subsequent careers. He started teaching sessions for GPs, which proved so popular with doctors from Leeds and beyond into the West Riding that extra tutors became necessary.

Geoffrey was prominent in setting up and running, together with others, the West Riding Medical Research Trust. This trust became very successful at raising funds and over many years its board sponsored a large number of clinical and laboratory research projects. Geoffrey’s contribution to clinical medicine, to teaching and to sponsoring research was recognised when in 1994 a new postgraduate centre at Chapel Allerton Hospital was named after him.

Family was very important to Geoffrey. He and Pamela raised four daughters, who remember their childhood with fondness. They particularly recall his sense of humour, the get-togethers with family and a close knit group of friends, and holidays in Ireland, Scotland and Portugal. He maintained his undergraduate interest in cricket, became a keen golfer, playing for many years off a handicap of 12, and, when work and family, allowed enjoyed salmon fishing.

He was an avid reader of modern literature and of current events. Conversation or debate with him was always stimulating, the result of his wide knowledge and his understanding of human nature. Almost daily he completed The Times crossword with his morning coffee.

A few years into his retirement, Pamela died, and he was sustained in his loss by his daughters and grandchildren, and by his friends. His many interests resurfaced, although he had to eventually give up golf. Until his last illness his intellectual powers were undiminished. He continued to read the medical literature, any doctors he consulted took great care and had to employ rigour in their pronouncements. Always a staunch supporter of the NHS, he followed its course and progress assiduously, and would allow that some improvements were evident.

His family, the many physicians trained by him and those who worked with him remember him with fondness. He was survived by his four daughters, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Adrian Simmons

(Volume XII, page web)

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