Obituary: Graham Fraser
Wednesday 23 February 1994
GRAHAM FRASER, Consultant otolaryngologist to University College Hospital from 1971 and, later, University College London Hospitals, was a pioneer of cochlear implantation for the treatment of total deafness. It was entirely due to his efforts that David Mellor, the then Minister of Health, was persuaded to set up a national programme which now restores hearing to some 150 totally deaf adults and children every year. From its inception, Fraser took a great interest in the National Association of Deafened People, and became its Patron.
In the early 1980s, impressed by the results of early cochlear implants in the United States, he headed a team which developed the UCH/RNID single-channel cochlear implant used for restoring elementary hearing to deafened adults. For over five years it was the only means available for treating total deafness in Britain. With the help of Jack Ashley (now Lord Ashley of Stoke), the Department of Health was persuaded to fund seven implant centres in the UK, the beginning of a national programme. This has since grown to provide a nationwide network of centres able to provide cochlear implants and specialist services for those who became profoundly deaf, and who previously had been largely abandoned by the medical profession.
When reliable multi-channel implants became available to give much better speech information, he headed a programme (UCLID) to develop a new multi-channel European device which would incorporate all the benefits of modern technology. He was actively working on this project up to the time of his death from cancer. As a member of the international group of scientists involved with cochlear implants, he travelled widely, was always up to date with the newest developments, and was universally respected. He was a founder member of the International Cochlear Implant Association and launched the British Cochlear Implant Group, being its president for a number of years. In 1993 he was awarded the WJ Harrison Prize for his work in this field.
Working with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, he set up a programme for tinnitus research in 1974, funded by the RNID, which he nurtured and cared for within his own department and which continues to spearhead research in this difficult field.
Fraser took his administrative and teaching responsibilities very seriously, whether this was as examiner for the ENT Fellowship, as a member of the Council of Management for the RNID, or as the leader of his ENT department at the Royal Ear Hospital, UCH, later to become part of UCL Hospitals. For this he would never accept the position of Chairman because of his very democratic approach to team leadership. He disliked the traditional hierarchy present in so many hospital departments, and always maintained that it was an individual's expertise working in a multi-disciplinary team that counted, and not their title. He guided us through countless stormy political seas and near-
closures with equal anxiety about each member of his department, whether clerical staff or consultant colleague. This care and concern has left behind him a busy, happy and well-integrated team. He was a kind and conscientious clinician, and it is a great sadness that he was forced by illness to retire when he still had so much to give and many ambitions unfulfilled.
Although widely travelled, Fraser discovered that the more he saw of the world the more he appreciated the cultural heritage and beauty of Britain. He was never happier than striding over a lakeland fell or along a coastal path with his wife and family.
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