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Obituary: Pharic Gillibrand

Pharic Gillibrand was appointed as Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist to the Southampton hospitals in 1969 within a year of the establishment of the medical school there. He joined what was, essentially, a large district general hospital and by the time of his death, over 50 years later, it had become a centre of world class clinical medicine and surgery and a very respected medical school. Many people shared in the leadership to that success but the support of the NHS consultant staff was critical for it and Pharic was an exemplary exponent and leader of that support throughout the whole of his tenure.

Pharic was born in 1935 and he was schooled at Lord Wandsworth College in Long Sutton, Hampshire, which supported children from single parent families as his father had died when he was aged seven. He qualified from St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington in 1958 and his junior clinical years were spent in London at St Mary’s and St George’s. He spent time in research and obtained an MD. He met Patricia during her nursing training at St Mary's and they were married for 60 years. It is impossible to underestimate how much Patricia’s love and support ensured he could fulfil his professional and personal responsibilities. His junior training was not hampered by him having to spend a year at King Edward VII hospital in Midhurst being treated for TB. Indeed, he felt it greatly enriched his life by allowing him to read widely, listen to music and learn to paint.

He rapidly established himself in Southampton as a senior clinician who was uniformly liked and respected by his patients and staff. He carried an enormous clinical load and in his senior years was the undoubted doyen of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists not only in Southampton but also in the wider Wessex Region. Clinical leadership positions inevitably followed, and he was appointed Chairman of the Medical Executive Committee at Southampton which was then the equivalent of the current Medical Director position. In 1998, the year he retired from the NHS, he was appointed Chair of the Southampton and Southwest Hampshire Health Authority, a post he filled with distinction for three years.

He played a full part in the work of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists by sitting on many committees, taking part in clinical inquiries and as an examiner in the UK and internationally.

His family life was paramount to him, and he loved the success of his three children and delighted in his ten grandchildren, all of whom are boys. His personality reflected this. He was open, articulate, very friendly and had a great sense of humour. He was also very loyal, something I came to value greatly in my years at Southampton as Professor and then Dean of Medicine.

In 1969 there were only three consultant obstetricians and gynaecologists in Southampton for 5000 deliveries a year; there are now well over 20. The modern NHS is much more a collective endeavour, quite rightly, so the days when a single individual alone could transform a whole clinical service and help to transform an institution are past. We will, therefore, probably not see his like again. However, Southampton owes a debt to Pharic and his other NHS colleagues of that era who came fully behind the development of the medical school and ensured the hospital became the world class clinical and academic centre it is today.