Lives of the fellows

John Samuel Garfield

b. 13 February 1930 d. 8 April 2019
BA Cantab(1951) MRCS LRCP(1954) MB BChir(1955) MRCP(1957) FRCS(1961) MChir(1962) FRCP(1977)

John Garfield was a consultant neurosurgeon at the Wessex Neurological Centre, Southampton University Hospitals Trust. He was immensely, if quietly, proud of the fact he was a fellow of both the Royal College of Physicians and of the Royal College of Surgeons. In a way this illustrates well John’s approach to medicine, which nowadays we would call ‘holistic’; it was the whole person as an integrated machine rather than the central nervous system in isolation which interested him and marked him out as a medical man.

He was born in Paddington, London, the son of Montagu Garfield, a medical and dental practitioner, and Marguerite Garfield née Elman. Having done his pre-clinical course at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he went to St Mary’s, Paddington for the rest of his medical schooling, staying on for house jobs. As with most of his generation, there was a period of National Service. John went into the RAMC, spending time at Tidworth Barracks and in Nicosia, Cyprus. There he looked after the military and their families, and had a thoroughly good time, even though he never learned to fire his pistol because he was behind the wicket at the time.

He was a senior house officer at St Mary’s, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and St James’ Hospital, Balham. He then trained in neurosurgery at Atkinson Morley Hospital, where he was most influenced by Wylie McKissock, at the Whittington Hospital and then as a senior registrar at the National Hospital, Queen Square.

In 1962 he was appointed as a neurosurgeon in Southampton. He was a rounded neurosurgeon with a special interest in gliomas – doing much research as part of the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Brain Tumor Group and publishing on the subject. His great love was teaching the ‘boys and girls’ and he has certainly left an important legacy of neurosurgeons he trained and mentored, as well as other clinicians who either rotated through the Wessex Neurological Centre or who worked with him and the rest of the team at the National Hospital and Atkinson Morley Hospital. His concept of the team in neurosurgery was far ahead of its time, being a flat, mutually respectful structure rather than a hierarchy.

Writing was an important part of John’s career and combined his love of the English language – specifically Shakespeare – with his great interest in the law as well as his clinical practice. He contributed several articles to the Medico-Legal Journal, as well as publishing two books Dilemmas in the management of the neurological patient (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1984) and More dilemmas in the management of the neurological patient (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1987), written with Charles Warlow, professor of medical neurology, Edinburgh. His interest in the law was satisfied by the years he spent as a member of the council and board of management at the Medical Defence Union, work which he found intellectually challenging and stimulating. In 1993 John, in collaboration with others including Glenn Neil-Dwyer and Rab Hide, developed and produced the Society of British Neurological Surgeons’ Safe neurosurgery, which remains to this day the foundation of the standards of safety and quality in neurosurgical practice.

He was president of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons from 1990 to 1992, secretary of the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies (EANS) from 1983 to 1987, an honorary civilian consultant adviser in neurosurgery to the Army Medical Services and an invited member of the council of Royal College of Surgeons from 1990 to 1993.

A work hard/play hard ethos threaded through John’s life, whether at work, behind the wicket, on the squash or fives court, and in the dark room. He kept wicket into his seventies, playing for the Southampton doctors.

From the time of moving to St Mary’s, where he first had access to an enlarger in the darkroom of the department of anatomy, John’s second ‘career’ began to take shape as a black and white photographer. Melding this with his interest in the Great War, John undertook his life’s project, recording the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries of Flanders, Italy and Gallipoli through photographs. This led to the publication of The fallen: a photographic journey through the war cemeteries and memorials of the Great War, 1914-18 (London, Leo Cooper, 1990), now in its fourth edition; John having updated the last one with new photographs and text.

Other photographic projects followed, including ‘Images of music’, which combined John’s love of music and photography by recording the musicians appearing at the Turner Sims Concert Hall at the University of Southampton, and ‘The cities’ and ‘EANS: a photographic gallery’, which celebrated his European role in neurosurgery.

In 1993 John was invited to give a lecture in Rome in recognition of his significant contribution to neurosurgery; he chose to bring his two worlds together in his lecture entitled ‘The eye, the brain and the camera’. Over the years, there were many exhibitions of his photographs, including at the Camden Arts Centre, London, the Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton and as recently as November 2018 at the University of Southampton to mark the centenary of the Armistice.

John was survived by his wife Agnes (née Teleki), whom he married in 1962, three daughters Stephanie, Johanna and Marie-Claire, and six grandchildren.

Steph Garfield

(Volume XII, page web)

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