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The lucky coincidences that saw my career take off


The benefits of studying medicine after Word War II
Harold Lambert Physician
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Yeah, Cambridge was very formative. It was... it was very interesting, met a lot of friends, heard a lot of music and I'm not a performing musician and I took what was then called a Part II Tripos, which now you can do in a vast range of topics, but I did it in Pathology, which involved a lot of microbiology as well and I got terribly interested in this. I got very... entranced particularly by how infections happen, the pathogenesis of infection and that stayed with me, but I had no idea that it would form, you know, a big part of what my life has turned out to be.

[Q] Did you go up to read Medicine?

I read up to... went up to read Medicine, took Part I, as everybody does, and then took Part II in Pathology and that really interested me and there were some very good teachers. One feature of there and at UCH, the medical school I went to in London after Cambridge, was that, because it was just after the end of the war and, and... sorry, the end of the war and after the end of the war, that, some people were 'dugouts' who were retired people and had been brought out of retirement to teach, and then at UCH, the other end, there were people who were then what we call now kind of registrars who actually had been through the war and had got a huge amount of experience. So I think actually we had a lot of privileged teaching as a matter of fact, and there was an old boy who taught us some lectures on plague. He was called Colonel Whitmore. He was very small and very incisive, and he told a lot of funny stories, but he had actually been the first man to recognise and identify the cause in Melioidosis in Rangoon in Burma in about 1912 or something.

[Q] Good heavens.

And there were other people like that who are historical figures, really. And one didn't realise it at the time, but they were.

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, Burma, Colonel Whitmore

Duration: 2 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008