Lives of the fellows

Alan Wilfrid Gough Goolden

b.20 May 1919 d.8 July 2015
MRCS LRCP(1943) DMRT(1949) MB BS Lond(1952) FRCR(1975) MRCP(1979) FRCP(1985)

Alan Goolden, a consultant radiotherapist and oncologist at Hammersmith Hospital, was one of the last representatives of that noble generation of doctors who came back from the Second World War and helped create the NHS.

He was born in 1919, just after the First World War, the son of an admiral in the Royal Navy, Francis Hugh Walter Goolden, and his wife, Dorothy Melian Goolden née French. He went to school at Haileybury College and then studied medicine at Barts, qualifying MRCS LRCP in 1943. Following a house post in the East End of London, he fulfilled an early ambition by joining the Royal Naval Reserve as a surgeon lieutenant. After the war he trained as a radiotherapist in Southampton, before taking up a substantive post at the Hammersmith Hospital in 1952. He remained at the Hammersmith Hospital until his retirement more than 30 years later.

His clinical interests were broad. He had a lifelong interest in the thyroid and its disorders, both benign and malignant. He also collaborated closely with the haematology department at the Postgraduate Medical School, and this extended his clinical practice into the management of lymphomas and myeloproliferative disorders. His clinical work was characterised by a meticulous approach to diagnosis, assessment and treatment, combined with deep compassion.

In appearance, he was somewhat austere. This was misleading as he had a highly developed sense of mischief and a keen sense of humour. He was broadminded and effortlessly moved from the pipe-smoking, tweedy world of the 1950s to the more relaxed style of the 1960s. He once wrote to the Home Secretary requesting some marijuana for clinical use; he pretended to be somewhat miffed when the Home Office gave him short shrift.

His scientific output reflected his clinical interests and the calibre of his collaborators indicates the esteem in which he was held. His co-authors included Sir Raymond ‘Bill’ Hoffenberg [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], Graham Joplin [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], John Goldman [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], David Galton [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] and many other eminent endocrinologists and haematologists. In recognition of his skills as a clinician and investigator he was, in 1985, awarded a fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of London, an honour which he greatly appreciated.

He was, probably without even knowing it, an excellent clinical teacher. He used example and discussion rather than a more didactic approach. He encouraged debate, and was always prepared to listen.

He was not afraid to speak out whenever he encountered injustice or misrepresentation. With colleagues, including Raymond Greene [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.228] and Geoffrey Keynes [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.319], he wrote to the BMJ in support of Raymond Hoffenberg and his struggles against the Apartheid regime in South Africa (‘Restrictions on doctor in South Africa’ Br Med J 1967;4:53). He wrote again to the BMJ, and to the public press, when Mrs Thatcher awarded St Thomas' Hospital £6 million to fund a cyclotron for fast neutron therapy. He wrote an account of the controversies surrounding the neutron therapy trials at the Hammersmith, which he entitled ‘The cyclotron saga’. The typescript is now held in the Wellcome collection.

In 1942 he married Lorema Bruce. They had two sons, Adrian and Robin. Following his separation from Lorema in 1980, his companion, until her death in 2005, was Anne Zanetti. His hobbies were reading, the theatre, music and woodworking. He had a particular talent, presumably reflecting his naval heritage, for making ships in bottles.

In later life, and despite acquiring some of the physical infirmities of older age, his mind remained sharp. The Guardian crossword was an essential component of his daily routine. He was able to continue living in his own home, devotedly supported by his carer Maria Tunjic.

He lived a long and fulfilling life, epitomising the peculiarly English art of combining modesty and relaxed charm with hard work and genuine achievement.

Alastair Munro

[BMJ 2016 353 2965 – accessed 2 June 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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