Lives of the fellows

John Michael Bishop

b.16 October 1925 d.5 August 2018
MB ChB Birm(1948) MRCS LRCP(1948) MRCP(1953) MD(1956) FRCP(1965) DSc(1966)

John Bishop was professor of medicine at Birmingham University and an honorary consultant physician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. He was a distinguished researcher and teacher, and made major contributions to medical education, particularly through his work for the World Health Organization (WHO).

John was born in Birmingham, the son of Dorothy Bishop née Jones and Arthur Claud Bishop. For most of his childhood he lived in Solihull and he went to Solihull School. He had planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer, but, following a conversation with the school headmaster, he changed his mind and opted to study medicine, and in 1943 began his medical studies at Birmingham University. Because of the shortage of medical staff during the war, he described the course as being largely self-taught. Additional duties at that time included being a member of the Home Guard and being on night time fire watch duty from the top of the university’s clock tower.

After graduating in 1948, he started work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where he would subsequently be based for most of his career. He undertook two years of National Service in the Army between 1949 and 1951, and during that time he met Hilary, whom he married in 1952.

Soon after qualifying as a doctor, John developed a strong interest in research, and in 1952 he joined the department of medicine at Birmingham University. Initially his research was focused on cardiovascular physiology. He was part of a research group led by Kenneth Donald [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.112], that also included Owen Wade [Munk’s Roll, Vol. XII, web] and Gordon Cumming [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.136], whose research included inserting cardiac catheters into one another to study cardiac output. A monograph written with Owen Wade entitled Cardiac output and regional blood flow (Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1962) summarises much of this research.

John was awarded a Rockefeller fellowship in 1956, which allowed him to spend a year undertaking research with Julius Comroe [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.105] and Robert Forster at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

On returning from the USA, John’s research moved more towards studying the pulmonary circulation and respiratory disease. He was appointed as a senior lecturer in the department of medicine, University of Birmingham and as an honorary consultant physician at United Birmingham Hospitals and Birmingham Regional Hospital Board in 1959. With the advances made in computing in the 1960s, John became increasingly interested in their potential in medicine, so he took on a role developing links between clinical staff and experts in computing. This led to him becoming the clinical lead in work to develop computing systems at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which in 1968 became one of 12 hospitals designated by the Department of Health as a centre for research into computers in medicine.

Throughout John’s career he had a great interest in teaching and medical education, indeed he said that teaching was the aspect of his career that he enjoyed most. As well as being a highly-respected teacher, he developed an academic interest in medical education and published several papers on the subject. John’s work in medical education resulted in him being invited, in the late 1960s, to join a small WHO team with the aim of helping the Libyan government establish a medical school. Despite the 1969 coup when Colonel Gaddafi took control of Libya, a medical school was established in Benghazi in 1970. This resulted in more invitations to work for the WHO establishing and developing medical schools in other Arab countries, including Syria, Sudan and Yemen. This work gradually widened out to include advising on postgraduate education in the Middle East and North Africa.

In 1983, at the age of 58, John resigned from the University of Birmingham and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital so that he could focus exclusively on his WHO work. He became the WHO regional adviser on medical education and at that time lived in Cairo. In all, whilst working for the WHO, he worked in nearly all of the Arab nations, advising on undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, along with being a strong advocate of continuing medical education.

After retiring at the age of 65, he continued with some medical roles, including being vice chairman of South Warwickshire Regional Health Authority. However, for the most part he enjoyed an active retirement and pursued other interests, including painting, listening to music, reading and travelling. John was an unassuming man who, whilst not receiving recognition through major awards and prizes, achieved a great deal during a career that had a positive impact on many people’s lives. Predeceased by his wife, he was survived by their two children, Lucy and Paul, and four grandchildren.

Paul Bishop

(Volume XII, page web)

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