Obituary: Dr John Fry
Tuesday 03 May 1994
JOHN FRY was his own man. He devoted his life to medicine and was a master of general practice. He made an immense contribution to the profession in Britain, spanning over 40 years.
Starting in practice before the National Health Service began, Fry witnessed the transformation of British general practice and documented many of the changes in his writings. He was concerned with the limitations of modern medical advances. Doctors, he said, still only 'cure sometimes, relieve often, comfort always and prevent hopefully'. He had a practical and down-to-earth approach to general practice; he used to say, 'Common diseases commonly occur, rare diseases rarely happen.'
The son of a general practitioner, Fry was educated at Whitgift Middle School, Croydon, and graduated from Guy's Hospital Medical School, London, in 1944. He started as a single-handed general practitioner in Beckenham in 1947 and retired from the same practice in 1991.
As well as being a doctor he was an accomplished researcher, author and teacher, and published extensively. He pioneered the description of common diseases by recording their content, natural history and outcome, in his own practice. In 1968 he helped set up the Journal of Postgraduate General Practice - Update and remained their consultant editor. He published over 50 books, of which the most popular, Common Diseases (1974), went into its fifth edition in 1993 and is a best-selling book in general practice.
Fry's first book was The Catarrhal Child (1961). His interest in international health-care comparisons is reflected in Medicine in Three Societies (1969) and Family Medicine: an international perspective (1983). More recently, he wrote three books on primary care systems covering 12 countries, with the latest, Primary Health Care in 12 Countries: some comparisons and lessons, due to be published this summer. He was particularly interested in facts relating to the British health-care system and wrote the NHS Data Book (1984); British Health Care - the facts is due to be published soon. Fry summarised the challenges facing those involved in providing and using health-care facilities as the 'science of the possible with the art of the impossible'.
Fry took a keen interest in teaching and for many years taught undergraduate and postgraduate students, both in Britain and abroad. He was a visiting professor at the universities of Oxford, Western Australia and California. More recently he became a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation.
John Fry was a founder member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and served on its Council for over 30 years. He was President of the Section of General Practice of the Royal Society of Medicine and was consultant in General Practice to the British Army for many years. He served on the General Medical Council for over 20 years and was a member of various committees of the Medical Research Council. He was a consultant to the World Health Organisation for nearly 30 years and a trustee of the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust from 1956.
He was awarded numerous prizes and lectures, including the Hunterian Gold Medal, the Sir Charles Hastings Prize, the Mackenzie Medal, the Guthrie Medal, the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Fellowship and the Foundation Council Award from the RCGP. Recently, 'The John Fry Trust Fellowship' was established for the giving of an annual lecture at the Royal College of Physicians on important aspects of general practice. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1989 and was recently awarded a fellowship by the Faculty of Public Health Medicine.
John Fry's first wife, Joan, died in 1989. One of his four grandchildren, Abigail, is a medical student at University College Hospital. His second marriage, to Trudy, extended his family to include, in his stepdaughter Stephanie, a Senior Lecturer in Metabolic Medicine at United Medical and Dental School at Guy's Hospital.
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