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Anthony Axon was born during World War II in Tintagel, Cornwall, and was educated at boarding school in Yorkshire. He thoroughly enjoyed his student years at Bart's in London. In 1965 he qualified and married his childhood sweetheart Jill, who has loved, cared and supported him throughout his career.
Following resident jobs at Bart's he moved to St Thomas'. With the support of Brian Creamer, gastroenterologist at St Thomas', he specialized in internal medicine and gastroenterology. Peter Cotton was 2 years ahead as a registrar and stimulated Dr Axon's interest in endoscopy. In 1973 he presented an MD on intestinal permeability, but it was his experience in endoscopy and in particular ERCP, that led to his consultant appointment in Leeds in 1975.
Dr Axon's job at the General Infirmary has been challenging, enjoyable and rewarding. He has been supported by superb colleagues. His research interests have covered intestinal permeability, ERCP, safety in endoscopy, dyspepsia, inflammatory bowel disease and Helicobacter pylori. He has enjoyed his clinical work enormously and has had the opportunity to travel and lecture extensively. Dr Axon has been Vice-President (Endoscopy) of the British Society of Gastroenterology, a member of the Council of the Royal College of Physicians, President of the British Society of Gastroenterology and President of the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. He is also President-Elect of the World Organization of Endoscopy (OMED).
Dr Axon's greatest treasures are his wife, 3 children and 5 grandchildren. His family has given him his greatest pleasure.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- To succeed in British medicine research was essential. At St Thomas',
Brian Creamer was one of the few consultants who made the time and had the interest to support a research group. He took me under his wing and introduced me to clinical gastroenterology and research.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- Brian Creamer had the greatest influence on my career. In the early seventies he was running a joint medical/surgical clinic, a regular GI/Path meeting and an X-ray meeting. He was a superb gastroenterologist and brilliant lecturer with the ability effortlessly to write papers in perfect English. He always adopted an optimistic approach to our research showing interest and enthusiasm for even the most miserable results we presented him with. The Gastroenterology Unit that I subsequently established in Leeds was based on the principles I had learnt from him.
- Which research paper influenced you the most?
- The discovery of Helicobacter pylori by Marshall and Warren switched my interest in research and has dominated it since. I was always interested in dyspeptic disease and gastric cancer and I had researched with bismuth so my Unit was in a commanding position to follow the lead that had been set in Perth.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- Our recent controlled trial studied the outcome of the eradication of Helicobacter in over 2000 "normal" subjects. Essentially an economic analysis, it showed that Helicobacter can be eradicated from the normal Western population at little or no cost. When finally it is accepted that H. pylori is responsible for non-cardia gastric cancer, the strategy that we have proposed will enable public health measures virtually to eliminate this disease at zero cost.
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- My biggest mistake was to be born in 1941 instead of 2001. The last 60 years have been the most exciting, interesting and prosperous in history, however, those born in the new millennium have the prospect of living with good health for an indefinite life span. They will have the opportunity to experience wonders that we are unable to conceive.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- To take train across India.
- What is your greatest regret?
- Over 30 years in gastroenterology I have recognized that teamwork and
sub-specialization provides the best clinical care for patients. I regret that even in the UK with a centrally-managed health service, few in our profession or in management have achieved the specialized, integrated patient focused care that our patients deserve.
- How do you relax?
- My home in Yorkshire has 8 acres, much of it woodland. On my rare free weekends at home I enjoy pitting myself against the forces of nature.
There are few relaxations however to compare with a winter's evening
In front of an open fire with a good novel and a bottle of Claret.
- What is your favorite sport?
- Rugby Union.
- What is your best place in the world?
- Guilin, China.
- What is your favorite film?
- The Godfather.
- What car do you drive?
- An ageing Jaguar Sovereign.
- What is your best electronic 'toy'?
- The hand-held dictaphone introduced in the 70's revolutionized my
professional life and remains my most valuable electronic possession.
- What book are you reading at the moment?
- The Diary of a Country Parson, by J Woodforde.
- Why did you get in involved in GastroHep.com?
- It offers informal international exchange of ideas and comradeship.