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Remembering John Geater OBE

18 January, 2020

I was sad to learn of the recent death of HIFA member John Geater OBE, whom I had met on several occasions and greatly enjoyed our discussions.

He has an obituary in this week's BMJ:

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6821 (Published 06 December 2019)

Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6821

'John Geater was born in Shrewsbury, attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and then Birmingham University, where he graduated in 1967.

Their strong Christian faith led him and his wife, Jane, to work in Bhutan with the Leprosy Mission between 1970 and 1975. He was the medical superintendent of Gida Kom Hospital, then hospital director at Mongar, and head of the national leprosy control programme. They returned to the UK via New Zealand in 1976, and John joined the Wellington Square Surgery, where he was a GP from 1976 to 2000...

In retirement, John focused his energies on international medical training and development. He co-founded the Doctor’s Dilemmas programme in 1995 and in 1999 received an award for services to postgraduate medical education from the University of London; in 2001 this led to the establishment of PRIME (Partnerships in International Medical Education). He taught extensively for PRIME and other agencies including USAID, DfID, and Unicef, in undergraduate and postgraduate courses for doctors, students, and other healthcare workers in Europe, Africa, and South Asia.'

One of my personal favourites of John's legacy is his YouTube video 'An incredibly brief history of medicine', which he recorded asnd shared with HIFA in 2017. It has been viewed more than 50,000 times: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtAjIG45O64

As I said at the time, "The video is a reminder that understanding of health and illness goes back to pre-history, and that since the earliest days of humanity we have attributed disease to the anger of the gods, to divine displeasure. Indeed, as John points out, even in modern society today we still tend to say 'What have I done to deserve this?' when we become sick. (It was not until 2,500 years ago that Hippocrates, the 'Father of Modern medicine', introduced the concept that disease can sometimes have natural causes.)

Best wishes, Neil

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare knowledge - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is the coordinator of the HIFA campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ) and current chair of the Dgroups Foundation (www.dgroups.info), which supports 700 communities of practice for international development, social justice and global health. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org