Obituary: Dr Neil Smith

Neil Smith was a skin pathologist of international renown, a remarkable clinician, and the leading opinion in the UK on the diagnosis of malignant melanoma and the management of cutaneous lymphoma.

At the time of his death, he was Director of the Skin Tumour Unit at the St John's Institute of Dermatology, St Thomas's Hospital, London, Director of Diagnostic Dermatopathology at the same Institute, and President of the British Society for Dermatopathology. In addition, he had the distinction of being a Fellow of three Royal Colleges: the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Pathologists and the Royal College of Radiologists.

Born in Manchester and educated at Manchester Grammar School for Boys, Smith's study of cutaneous diseases began in 1974 when he joined the Dermatology Department of St George's Hospital, London, having qualified there four years previously. Smith was a very talented artist which perhaps explains his aptitude and early interest in dermato-pathology, the microscopic diagnosis of skin diseases.

In 1977 he moved to the St John's Institute of Dermatology as Lecturer in Histopathology before his appointment as Consultant Dermatologist in 1979 and Director of the Skin Tumour Unit in 1980. Although this Unit treats patients with all forms of skin cancer, its reputation was established principally in the field of cutaneous lymphoma and has become the national referral centre for the management of patients with this complex and sometimes fatal group of diseases.

The Unit has added greatly to our knowledge of cutaneous lymphoma, particularly through the application of molecular biological techniques which are now used routinely as an aid to diagnosis and to determine prognosis. In addition the Unit has introduced new forms of therapy and was the first centre in the UK to use extracorporeal photopheresis, a method of irradiating circulating malignant cells using ultraviolet light. As a member of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), Smith was one of a small number of pathologists selected to devise a new histological classification of cutaneous lymphomas.

Although his renown was in the field of skin pathology, Neil Smith was also an outstanding clinician with a meticulous approach to the diagnosis of rare skin disorders. He personally devised a pathology-based classification of skin diseases which comprises over 2,500 conditions. He was disdainful of many other less detailed diagnostic indexes which he regarded as of administrative rather than of clinical value.

Because of his encyclopaedic knowledge of dermatology, Smith was often the opinion of last resort with complex or difficult cases. He was therefore greatly in demand both as a clinical opinion and as a pathologist, but despite these major pressures on his time he expended considerable time and effort on individual patients, many of whom were devoted to him.

Although his NHS appointment entitled him to undertake private work, he never saw patients privately and worked considerably beyond his contracted hours. He could often be found in the Institute before six in the morning and at weekends preparing lectures for meetings. Few doctors nowadays would pursue such a daunting work schedule with such energy and enthusiasm.

He was also a remarkable teacher and lecturer and illustrated many of his lectures with high-quality drawings and diagrams of his own invention. Post-graduates attend the Institute of Dermatology from all parts of the world and dermatopathology is an essential part of their training. Dr Smith's tutorials were always packed, both with information and people. In demand as a teacher and speaker both within the UK and worldwide, he particularly enjoyed visiting Germany; he had acquired a flat in Berlin and delivered his lectures in fluent German. In 1994, the last year he was unaffected by illness, he delivered over 20 guest lectures, in Barcelona, Graz, Brussels, Argentina, South Africa, Brisbane, Boston and Greece. Indeed he loved nothing more than to travel, to meet old friends and make new ones.

Throughout his career Neil Smith wrote or contributed to over 70 major scientific publications and became a member of many learned societies both in the UK and abroad. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1973 and was made a Fellow in 1987. In 1993 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in 1995.

His many interests outside medicine include the theatre and languages, and he will be remembered as the resident, albeit sometimes controversial, cartoonist of the New Musical Express in the 1960s. However, his friends and colleagues will remember him best as a wonderful bon viveur and raconteur. Unfortunately, he required a cardiac valve replacement ten years ago and more recently did not survive a prolonged struggle against the complications of bacterial endocarditis - a struggle he surmounted with characteristic fortitude. He will be remembered by his friends, his colleagues and his patients not only for his wisdom and knowledge but for his incredible generosity and kindness. He is survived by Ron Munro, his devoted partner of 25 years, and his sisters, Brenda and Linda.

Neil Procter Smith, dermatologist: born Manchester 12 December 1996; died London 14 March 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links