Lives of the fellows

Moses Elias Benaim

b.9 September 1938 d.27 October 2018
MB ChB Manch(1963) MRCS LRCP(1965) DCH(1966) DObst(1966) MRCP(1969) FRCP(1986)

Moses Benaim, known as Maurice, came from a culturally rich cosmopolitan background and spent his working life in the North of England, where his empathy and gentleness, coupled with outstanding diagnostic skills, gained him the respect and affection of colleagues and patients alike.

He was born in Gibraltar, the second of eight children. His father, Shalom Benaim, was a businessman who imported coffee and other groceries. Both Maurice’s father and his mother, Mesody Benaim née Bibas, came from families which included a number of eminent theologians.

Maurice grew up in Tétouan, then a Spanish Protectorate, in Morocco. Educated initially at a school where lessons were conducted in Spanish, he transferred at the age of 11 to a French school in Tangier. He later moved to Carmel College in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, where he learnt fluent English and passed a full set of ‘O’ levels in a matter of months.

Maurice studied medicine at Manchester University, qualifying in 1963. Following a very brief period in general practice in the Lake District, he did a series of junior hospital jobs, gaining a wide breadth of clinical experience. He trained in neurology while a registrar in general medicine at Hope Hospital, Salford and was then a cardiology registrar at the General Infirmary, Leeds. Subsequently appointed as a medical senior registrar at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, he worked in endocrinology under Reg Hall [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.185] and in cardiology under Hewan Dewar [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web]. His research included the effect of onions on blood glucose, free fatty acids and insulin levels. A letter he had published in the British Medical Journal in 1974 defended the idea of establishing coronary care units; his views, then controversial, are now universally accepted (Br Med J. 1974 May 4;2[5913]:279).

On being appointed as a consultant physician at Bury General Hospital in 1975, Maurice became responsible for the diabetic services and developing the cardiology services. Soon after his arrival in Bury, he put in the first cardiac pacemaker in that district. His clinics were usually large and contained a rich mix of cases. He was always willing to see extra patients on being telephoned by concerned GPs. He strove to keep high clinical standards and, during his time in Bury, diagnosed three atrial myxomas on the basis of history and clinical findings before confirming with investigations.

In spite of a workload which made time-keeping difficult, there was little in the way of complaint from patients, who seemed very willing to wait to see him. On one occasion, he was called to the phone in the middle of a ward round and was startled to find himself about to be interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester. He had been voted ‘unsung hero of the year’ by listeners. Patients were interviewed on air about why they thought him a hero; they referred to his skills in listening, his sensitivity, good manners and his quiet efficiency at solving their problems.

Prior to having to retire in 2001 due to rheumatoid arthritis, Maurice used to get up early each day to play his classical guitar before breakfast. As worsening joint disease made this impossible, he instead relished listening to his large collection of vinyl records which he had built up over the years. He was particularly fond of Mozart, Schubert and the voice of Victoria de los Ángeles. He enjoyed walking by the sea and photographing seascapes in England and in Spain. A keen reader of fiction in English, Spanish and French, he also learnt Italian in retirement and added Antonio Tabucchi and Natalia Ginzburg to his list of favourite authors.

Always well dressed, Maurice retained a southern European stylishness and spoke grammatically impeccable English with a slight Franco-Spanish accent, which people found hard to place. His warm smile, kindness and enthusiasm for making everyone excellent coffee made him many friends throughout his life.

He married Christine née Jolly (also a doctor) in 1969 and enjoyed a loving and happy family life. He was survived by Christine and their three children, Sara, Rachel and Jonathan.

Christine Benaim

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List