Members' obituaries

This section contains members' obituaries, and information about how to submit an obituary via our website.

 

Members' obituaries

University College Hospital ; London., M.A., M.B., B.Chir. Cantab. 1958, MRCP Ed. 1964, MRC Psych.1971, FRCPsych. FRCP Ed. 1977).


Dr John Stuart Grimshaw passed away 23 May 2019 from Alzheimer’s. 

His schooling was at Repton , Latham House. Here he met life long friends who played such an important part in his life. Similarly he enjoyed Jesus College Cambridge and University College London. He trained in Psychiatry as a Major in the RAMC at Netley and St Thomas’s London.

He was appointed consultant psychiatrist Southampton University Hospital in 1967, Honorary clinical tutor University of Southampton , member of the Home Office panel of senior consultant Psychiatrist and Member of the Mental Health Act Commission.

As a clinician he combined empathy with competence . A kind intelligent man , convivial, well informed, he possessed a great wit and charm and was always fastidiously polite and generous.

Amongst the many Tribunal roles that he undertook were Examiner and Observer of Exams at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Chairman of Southampton Medical Executive Committee . He was also the medical member for the Mental Health Review Tribunal for the South West Regions – a role he held for many years

Accepted as a Liveryman in the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries , as such he became a Freeman of the City of London.

John had a dress style that some might say was unique! Traditional but strangely quirky, lemon yellow trousers and old school ties, always content in his 70’s time warp of fashion.

He exhibited style on the Dance floor where he could mince and twirl with a lightness of foot that could have earned him a place on Strictly Come Dancing.

He was a happy traditionalist , who had a great love and knowledge of History and was a reliable source of facts and dates. Other great interests were Stamp collecting and he was elected as a member of the Royal Philatelic Society in 2010. He also enjoyed Steam Trains, Trams and Trolley buses.

He thoroughly enjoyed Hill walking – and guided by the great fell walking authors W.A Poucher and Wainright, he tramped and marched his way with others, in and around - up and over -the Peak District, the Lake district and Snowdonia which were some of his favourite places.

He married Anne in 1956 who died in 2018. He spent his final years in care suffering from Alzheimers. He leaves a daughter and son and three grandchildren.

Dr Chris Vassilas, who died suddenly in April 2019, was a highly respected retired Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry and Associate Medical Director for Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. He had also been Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer University of Birmingham.

Chris was born in North London, the eldest of three children.  He attended his local comprehensive school before entering Liverpool University to read medicine in 1975. After qualification he trained in psychiatry in Edinburgh & later worked with Professor Gethin Morgan in Bristol, as Lecturer.  

He was appointed to his first consultant post in old age psychiatry at Bury St Edmunds in 1992. He was elected Chair of the local Division of Psychiatry just a year later in 1993 and soon became a member of the local Joint Strategy Group for the Elderly in Suffolk. Chris moved as consultant to the Queen Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital, Birmingham in 1999 where he was Clinical Director and took on the role of assisting in the merger of services across the whole city of Birmingham.

Chris had an interest in Medical Education that began with his teaching experiences at Bristol. He became specialty tutor for Old Age Psychiatry in Bristol and then in Birmingham and later became Programme Director for Old Age Psychiatry and a valued member of the Regional Medical Education apparatus. He was the first Director of Medical Education in Birmingham introducing approaches to Continuing Education for Consultants that typified his pragmatic and efficient style. He examined for the University, the College and GMC and served on the College OSCE committee for many years. 

Chris was a calm, consistent presence who contributed widely throughout the psychiatric community and perhaps particularly the psychiatric education community. Comments from a wide variety of colleagues used words such as “integrity”, “reliability”, “dedication” and “fairness”. Perhaps the comments that would have pleased him most were simply “the reason I chose psychiatry” from a former student now consultant in Birmingham and “Somebody who people aspired to be” from another.

Following his retirement from Birmingham, Chris worked for a period in Auckland, New Zealand which he enjoyed and which he and Janet followed by touring the South Sea Islands. He also continued his work and passion for medical education being a volunteer member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists educational initiative, teaching medical professionals and monks in Myanmar. He enjoyed active holidays, particularly diving and kayaking, as well as photography. 

He is survived by his widow, Janet and daughter Eirini.

Obituary by: Nick Brown and Femi Oyebode
 

Sab BhaumikFor 27 years as an NHS consultant, Sab Bhaumik lived a particular routine on Saturdays. He would turn up in his office at Leicester Frith Hospital to carry out the still pending bits of his academic work which invariably included teaching. Turning up to benefit from his generosity, would be a large number of students - from psychiatrists preparing for the Royal College’s membership exams to registrars getting ready for consultant interviews and consultants seeking guidance on assorted issues - clinical and otherwise.

I often teased him that these Saturday gatherings were hisdurbar and the response from this large hearted man was always a loud guffaw, as he continued with his long sustained routine. As a close friend remarked, Sab Bhaumik died the way he lived- on a Saturday afternoon in the grounds of Leicester Frith- albeit this time the cardiac ICU of Glenfield Hospital, surrounded by a large number of people he had taught over the years, an extended family that owed so much to this professor who always cared, who always had time.

Sab graduated in medicine from RG Kar Medical College in Calcutta in 1978 and then went on to work in the West Bengal Health Service in a place called Khatra. This rural outpost was as much a contrast as possible from the teeming metropolis that was Calcutta. What was lacking there in equipment, medication and infra structure, Sab made up with his commitment, compassion and honesty. These were traits that particularly endeared him to his patients who often travelled from miles around to see him. When he left after 3 years there were at least 200 people around the bus, waiting to see him off. Sab went on to join an MD programme in Pharmacology at the Benares Hindu University and it was with the medical students there that he honed the teaching skills that would go on to make him an inspirational communicator.

Coming to the UK in 1985, Sab Bhaumik chose Psychiatry, a medical specialty where he truly found his calling. Starting with the psychiatry rotation in North Wales in a hospital where his only son now works, he went on to complete a Diploma in Psychiatry from the University of London and then the MRCPsych. In February 1992, he joined Leicester Frith Hospital as a Consultant in the Psychiatry of Learning Disability. Over the next 27 years, he would remain with what is now Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, working in a variety of roles - lead clinician, clinical director, medical director and then after his retirement in 2013, a consultant psychiatrist and senior medical advisor to the board.

His influence in shaping policy went beyond the local. Within the Royal College of Psychiatrists, he was elected first as Chair of its Trent division and later as the Chair of the Faculty of Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability. He was credited with pioneering the tiered approach to mental healthcare provision and developing accessible information on medication for people with intellectual disability.

An author of over 100 peer reviewed publications and book chapters, Sab edited two editions of the internationally acclaimed Frith guidelines for psychotropic medication use, was a member of the NICE guidelines panel on mental health problems in people with learning disability and edited with me, the Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability, due to be published in January 2020. His work with diaspora organisations within the RCPsych, the struggle to gain equity of treatment outcomes for patients from BAME communities and the campaign to target differential attainment among trainees from ethnically diverse backgrounds were some of his passionate causes.

The honours were many too. In 2005, he was the winner of the Hospital Doctor Award for Psychiatry Team of the Year, in 2006 he was awarded the OBE for services to medicine and in 2015, the Royal College of Psychiatrists gave him its highest honour, the Honorary Fellowship. Through all this, Sab remained his usual self deprecating self, never taking himself too seriously.

Through all this, his greatest attribute was that he remained a true fighter for his patients - a marginalized group of people with developmental disabilities and mental health difficulties who often had neither equity of access to healthcare nor equity of treatment outcomes. In his struggle to secure this equity, he was willing, sometimes at considerable personal cost, to speak out against the “anti intellectual pieties and facile compassion, all so triumphant in contemporary medicine,” that effectively disadvantaged patients from marginalized groups.

Sab Bhaumik died on 9 November 2019 at the age of 66, following a massive myocardial infarction. He is survived by his wife Sushmita and son Sugato. Sushmita, for long his anchor and arguably the only person who could possibly tell him no, found in the depths of her unexpected loss, the words that describe him best -  “He had that magnetic quality to attract people- his honesty, sincerity , compassion and ability to rise above petty jealousies made him one of a kind. Like a comet he blazed into our lives touching everyone with love, laughter and hope – the world darkening as he left”.

Regi Alexander

Consultant Psychiatrist & Associate Dean (Advanced Learning), Royal College of Psychiatrists

Formerly Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Kanakaratnam worked at Fairfield Hospital/Weller Wing, Bedford Hospital as an Honorary Consultant, He passed away  on 27 September 2019, aged 86 and a half. 

Dr K, as he was fondly called at work (and Kanaks to many), was the son of an Ayurvedic medical practitioner and lecturer at the College of Indigenous Medicine in Colombo.  His mother, Pauline studied at Cambridge University/ London School of Economics where she completed her degree.  She also held a degree in English Literature. 

Kanaks was educated at Royal College, Colombo, Sri Lanka and qualified as a medical graduate from the University of Ceylon, Colombo in 1960 and practised medicine and surgery in Galle and Jaffna. 

He came to the UK in 1964 and joined Three Counties Hospital, which later became Fairfield Hospital in Bedfordshire.  He was appointed Consultant Psychiatrist in 1971 at Fairfield and Bedford Hospitals (Weller Wing) where he worked for his entire life until retirement in 1999, and continued as an honorary consultant. 

Kanaks was one of the most Senior Fellows of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the College in recognition of his long-standing membership and Fellowship held a minute’s silence at the opening of the Council meeting on 10/01/2020.

A towering figure

Kanaks was born in Sri Lanka but adopted as a loyal son of England where he spent almost his entire adult life. He was a towering figure in psychiatry for over half a century in Bedfordshire, having devoted all his working life to the people of this county. 

At Fairfield Hospital, Kanaks worked in almost every adult specialty ranging from inpatient and community services to forensic and rehabilitation. At heart, he was a biological psychiatrist but never failed to recognise the benefits of psychotherapy and other models of treatment. 

His eclectic approach to psychiatric formulations and treatments earned him the respect of not only his colleagues but also of wider medical community – physicians, surgeons and general practitioners.  

His clinical and teaching achievements were considerable.  He was the first Clinical Tutor for Beds & North Herts Mental Health Service appointed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1972. 

He was an enthusiastic teacher and clinical tutor for many years. Hailing from Royal College, Colombo, it was no surprise that his school motto, Disce Aut Discede (learn or depart) was at the forefront of his training sessions, but always delivered with great understanding and compassion.

He was instrumental in bringing to England many trainee doctors from Sri Lanka to train here.  Many are now Consultant Psychiatrists spread over the country, while others remained at Fairfield Hospital/Bedford Hospital for their career.

Pioneering

He lectured at the Nursing School regularly for 15 years and was on the Bedfordshire Nurse Education Committee.  He conducted training seminars for senior social workers in Bedfordshire.

He pioneered the development of many clinical services including the first Alcohol Misuse Service, the Rehabilitation Service and the Old People’s Mental Health Service in the region.  In the 1960’s he organized and implemented a GP service Occupational Health Department at Fairfield Hospital for many hospital staff – both resident and non-resident.

He was an avid all-round cricketer, playing for Fairfield Hospital, but he will be remembered mainly as an active player of Letchworth Cricket Club where he was known as ‘Doc’. 

He was frequently reported in the local newspaper for his excellent performances with bat and ball. He loved his garden, food and travelling far and wide. He was a man of immense charm and wit and a wonderful story teller.

All those who were fortunate to have been his trainees will testify to his humane and considerate nature as well as his excellent teaching skills. 

His consultant and management colleagues will remember him, not only for his wide knowledge and wise counsel, but also for his tact and diplomacy when dealing with thorny issues. 

Above all, his patients (and he would never call them clients) will always recall his patience, kindness, tolerance and exceptional clinical acumen.

Humble

Kanaks was not only revered as a clinician and teacher, but also much loved and admired as a humble and self-effacing man who did not know the meaning of the word ego, despite being an psychiatrist. 

The large gathering of doctors (young and old), nurses, social workers, friends and relatives at the recent memorial event was testimony to the tremendous respect and esteem that he enjoyed throughout his life.

He was a clinician, a teacher, an administrator, a leader, a much-loved friend and colleague, but above all, he was a very decent and honourable human being.  He did not abide by any religion to know right from wrong, but was principled with a very strong moral compass. 

He leaves his devoted partner Dianne, his brother Viswam, his many beloved nephews and nieces around the world, as well as his dear friends and loyal colleagues.

It is only fitting to conclude with the words of Horace, the Roman Poet: 

Non omnis moriar – I shall not die altogether.

RIP Kanaks

Obituary by: Dianne Cobbold-Davis, Longstanding partner to Kanaks