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Early specialisation and dislike of history


My interest was science with a human application
Harold Lambert Physician
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[Q] Was there anything that moved you towards medicine in your family? I mean, there weren't doctors in your family but what...

No, there was one sort of second cousin who was a doctor. He was killed in the army but, I mean, I remember him vaguely but not very closely. No, I don't think... I think it really came from my interest in science but science of a human application. I think it would be quite pretentious to say that I wanted to help suffering humanity but I did want it to be something to do with people.

[Q] Were you ill as a kid?

Was I ill?

[Q] Yeah.

No, I was incredibly healthy except I now remember when I got a cough I got the most awful graveyard cough and, of course, in those days, before X-rays, I'm sure my parents must have been very worried about TB. I mean, I've got a perfectly normal chest but... and have been, apart from old age and coronaries and stuff, I've been a terribly healthy person but I did have this dreadful, dreadful cough when I got a cold and that was... In fact both my brothers were very well, thank goodness. But there was fear at that time about things like polio. We weren't allowed to swim when polio was going around and we did have immunisations. I remember the doctor coming to the house and giving them, or the flat or wherever it was. But there must have been, I suppose, a lot of anxiety about things like TB, which was very rife. I mean most of us were infected with TB. When I went to Cambridge, everyone had the Mantoux test done; not because they wondered about our health. It was just some study somebody was doing and I don't really remember but I think nearly everyone was positive. Now that would be quite, quite the reverse now except for BCG positivity, wouldn't it, and that change in the epidemiology of tubercle, which has muddled a lot of people's minds about what to do about positive Mantouxs because people don't relate it to the age of the patient and the setting. And I've met a lot of muddles about that, but that... even in Wandsworth, before I retired, only a very small number of children at BCG age were positive and this is a big immigrant area.

British doctor Harold Lambert (1926-2017) spent his career tackling infectious diseases, helping in the development of pyrazinamide as an effective treatment for tuberculosis. He also published work on the rational use of antibiotics and was a trustee and medical advisor for the Meningitis Research Foundation.

Listeners: Roger Higgs

Roger Higgs was an inner city GP for 30 years in south London, UK, and is Emeritus Professor of General Practice at Kings College London, where he set up the department.

He gained scholarships in classics at Cambridge but changed to medicine after a period of voluntary work in Kenya in 1962. He was Harold Lambert's registrar for 18 months in the early 1970s, the most influential and exciting episode in his hospital training. He set up his own practice in 1975. He helped to establish medical ethics as a practical and academic subject through teaching, writing and broadcasting, and jointly set up the 'Journal of Medical Ethics' in 1975.

His other work included studies in whole person assessment and narrative in general practice and development work in primary medical care: innovations here included intermediate care centres, primary care assessment in accident and emergency departments, teaching internal medicine in general practice and establishing counselling services in medicine.

He was made MBE in 1987 for this development work and now combines bioethics governance, teaching and writing with an arts based retirement.

Tags: Cambridge, Wandsworth

Duration: 2 minutes, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008