Yesterday I learned this world lost one of its best. I learned of it belatedly and I am very affected by the news. Prof. Andy Burroughs was one of those very special human beings. He was clever, exceedingly clever but he was also a very nice person, a warm and caring doctor, an exemplary physician who did not always display what is commonly referred to as a good bedside manner. Do I care? Not one jot. He wasn’t one to waste words, in my experience. His skill, his knowledge, his clinical rationale, his curiosity and his decisive actions spoke volumes. From the moment I met him I knew this was a physician I could trust. I respected his analytical approach, I related to it entirely, it comforted me, I knew this was someone I could surrender to.
I had read up on him widely before we met so I had high expectations and he didn’t disappoint. His wikipedia entry did not exist at that time but a man this good has a lot of references so that was no hindrance to me. When I found that he studied under Sheila Sherlock (who did have a page then and much more besides) I knew he was going to be someone special. When we first met I asked if what was written about her was true and he replied that it was all true but not all of it had yet been written.
Of his achievements and background I am not qualified to speak but this obituary written by Professor Roger Williams, CBE, Director, Institute of Hepatology, London is a fine one.
What it and all other literature I can find today fails to mention is how this wonderful man died. It’s a very important piece of information especially to me. To die aged just sixty years old is a travesty, especially when one is this special, when one has done so much to save the lives of so many others and to improve the lives of countless more. What I learned today, a full one year and nine months after the event, is that as a cruel irony , given his world-beating expertise in this area, The Prof died of pancreatic cancer. Very few people survive that one, even when surrounded by the absolute best that medical science has to offer. In Prof Burroughs’ case he survived very much longer than most, over a year, and like the exemplary individual he was, he continued working, helping others in need, until very close to the end. I’m sure in some way that it helped him to do that. I’m equally sure that I wasn’t the only one blissfully unaware of his condition because that would be like him too. Discretion.
Such was my respect for him that I decided to ask something of him that I thought was a real stretch, one very few in his esteemed position would have spared a thought for. I asked him if he would, in the absence of that historic icon, the family doctor, assume the role of GP to my wife so that I could be sure that her disparate clinical needs were being looked after by someone I trusted. I wrote him a long letter and without fuss or comment he simply adopted that role. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get that lucky again, lucky enough to find such an eminent and skilled doctor humble enough to accept such a role. Such a fine human being. Thank you Andy Burroughs, Prof.