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Following a basic science course at Cambridge University (Queen's College) Brian Gazzard continued his further medical training at King's College Hospital, London, England. He subsequently became a research fellow with Professor Roger Williams in the same institution. His research interests there included coughing abnormalities associated with live disease and the development of liver support systems and the treatment of paracetomol (acetamidophen) overdose.
He then went as a Senior Registrar to St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, under the guidance of Sir Anthony Dawson; he was involved in the development of assays to measure gastrin and he investigated the psychological aspects of Crohn's disease and individuals with ileostomies.
He was appointed as a Consultant Gastroenterologist at what was then the Westminster Hospital, London, in 1978 and transferred his beds to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital when this opened in the early 90s.
His initial research interests were in the sialomucins present in colonic mucosa in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease and their potential importance in carcinogenesis.
He then saw the first AIDS patient in the United Kingdom (probably) and it was rapidly appreciated that Chelsea and Westminster Hospital was the epicentre of the UK epidemic of HIV infection. He subsequently developed interest in algorithms of care for such patients and in particular the gastrointestinal manifestations of this disease.
He has been particularly lucky as the advent of newer and highly effective therapies have changed the prognosis from almost certain death to one in which patients can be expected to live many years providing they take drug therapy.
He is married with three children.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- It was because this speciality offered the most interesting research prospects at a particular stage in my career.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- Undoubtedly the most influential teacher in my life was Sir Anthony Dawson, who had a capacity to sleep in a lecture but afterwards always ask the seminal question which demonstrated either the basic flaw or underlying message of the entire lecture.
- Which research paper influenced you the most?
- I have chosen an unusual research paper published many years ago in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. This paper demonstrated that individuals who passed excessive wind in fact did not do so - but rather passed the wind in large, infrequent amounts. This demonstrated that is possible to research objectively even the most recalcitrant subject.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- The most exciting discovery that I made was that albendazole was able to eradicate microsporidial infection (at least some varieties) which transforms the short-term prognosis of many HIV-positive patients.
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- My biggest mistake was undoubtedly to allow two different research fellows to submit papers on relatively similar topics, which allowed the Unit to be accused of dual publication. The lesson being learned that names on papers is one of the most crucial and under-discussed issues in any Research Unit.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- To work in Africa.
- What is your greatest regret?
- My early appointment as a Consultant (age 30 years) and the consequent difficulties in furthering basic scientific training.
- How do you relax?
- By reading books - the present one being a biography of Caravaggio, the greatest artist of the late Renaissance.
- What is your favorite sport?
- In the present age of the human genome it is becoming increasingly clear that sportsmen are born and not made, and therefore I believe that the most important sports are those with a technical skill, i.e. snooker.
- What is your best place in the world?
- My tiny cottage right by the beach in a very unfashionable area of the country, where there is no telephone.
- What is your favorite film?
- The best film ever made is undoubtedly Citizen Kane, and this should be required viewing for all senior NHS management.
- What car do you drive?
- A 10-year old BMW.
- What is your best electronic 'toy'?
- I detest all known electronic toys, other than the typewriter. The greatest advantage is the written word. This is not retractable. I am aware that people younger than me are increasingly going to use electronic means of communication and hence my submission to GastroHep.com.