Obituary: Professor Bryan Brooke

Diana Dummer
Friday 02 October 1998 23:02 BST
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TO THOSE suffering from ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease, the name Bryan Brooke is remembered with gratitude. His two books Understanding Cancer (1971) and The Troubled Gut (1986) were written for readers without medical knowledge in order to lift the veil of ignorance emanating from the taboos around diarrhoea. The Bryan Brooke Lecture, with accompanying medal and sponsored by Convatex, is given annually on his subject by colleagues in the medical and nursing professions.

Having left the Royal Army Medical Corps as a lieutenant-colonel at the end of the Second World War, in 1947 Brooke became Reader in Surgery at Birmingham University, working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It was here that he devised the brilliantly simple Brooke eversion ileostomy - a bowel opening on the skin of the stomach, to which a bag could be attached. This revolutionised the treatment of ulcerative colitis. The vast majority of the thousands world-wide who have had this operation are living near-normal lives.

Although this has recently been improved by a "pouch" operation, credit for pioneering work must go to Bryan Brooke. He received the Copeland Medal for scientific research, numerous awards from the United States and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, the Hong Kong Surgical Society and the Royal Australian College of Surgeons. He was appointed Professor of Surgery at St George's Hospital, London, in 1963, later to become emeritus professor.

From the early Fifties, Brooke devoted considerable time and effort to improving the lives of those who had undergone surgery for these bowel disorders. As a driving force behind the foundation of an ileostomy association in Britain, Brooke was one of the first surgeons to encourage his patients to form a group to meet new patients and sustain them through the emotional and physical effects of this type of surgery.

As Founder President of the Ileostomy Association from 1957 to 1982, his compassionate understanding of members' concerns was invaluable. One of his patients has said: "To Bryan we were all members of his extended family."

Brooke's personality reverberated through operating theatres and wards, but the staff who met his high standards understood and respected him, becoming lifelong friends.

Ever creative and curious, Bryan Brooke was a skilful potter and carpenter, but his deepest passion was for painting. He took it very seriously and felt that it was far more than a hobby. Much of his free time in the 1950s and 1960s was spent in Suffolk at the studios of Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haynes who ran the East Anglia School of Painting. His work was shown at exhibitions in Birmingham and London, including those of the Medical Art Society, of which he was at one time President.

On retiring, one of his favourite activities was writing and he became Honorary Associate Editor of the journal World Medicine.

Bryan Nicholas Brooke, surgeon: born Croydon, Surrey 21 February 1915; Lecturer in Surgery, Aberdeen University 1946-47; Reader in Surgery, Birmingham University 1947-63; Professor of Surgery, St George's Medical School, London University 1963-80 (Emeritus); married 1940 Naomi Mills (three daughters); died Kenley, Surrey 18 September 1998.

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