Dr Mark Swerdlow

Personal Details

Dr Mark Swerdlow MB ChB MSc MD FFARCS DA 

01/08/1918 to 26/02/2003

Place of birth: England

Nationality: Not confirmed

CRN: 519111

Education and qualifications

General education

Not known

Primary medical qualification(s)

Victoria University of Manchester, 1942 MB ChB

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

DA, MSc and MD Manchester (dates to be confirmed)


Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

Dr Swerdlow has been credited by others with being a pioneer and creating the specialty of pain medicine in Great Britain. Although others might claim to have started clinics before himself, he is credited with initiating the inaugural meeting in 1967 that led to the evolvement of the specialialist interest pain societies.

Dr Swerdlow born in 1918, graduated from Manchester in 1942 , further gaining an MSc and MD. Following graduation  he served with distinction with the RAMC in the European war theatre of WW2 from 1943-8. On his return he specialised in Anaesthesia and obtained the DA.  He spent time as an Exchange Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. Travelling to America on the Queen Mary. Before being appointed as a consultant anaesthetist to the Salford Royal Hospitals group associated with Manchester Medical School in 1955.

As a consultant he began to develop new ideas about the problems of pain control and introduced many of the new anesthetic nerve block techniques for pain treatment that had been introduced  during the second world war. He began to develop one of the first pain clinics in this country, which over 5 years went on to be fully operational in 1959. Becoming the director until his retirement from the NHS  21 years later in 1980 . This clinic further developed,  24 years later into the world renowned North West Regional Pain Relief Centre at Teaching Hospital in Salford originally  known as Hope Hospital. 

Professional interests and activities

When Dr Swerdlow retired in 1980 he began a new career as an advisor  for the World Health Organisation, which recruited him to launch a new cancer pain relief pain programme. He assembled a small group of international specialists and together they developed the hugely influential WHO analgesic ladder for cancer pain. First published in 1986.
Dr Swerdlow organised the inaugural  meeting of interested parties in1967 at Salford that led to the formation of the Intractible Pain Society. The IPS later merged with international branches of the Intractable Pain Society to ultimately evolve into the Pain Society. Ultimately also from these early embryonic roots the Faculty of Pain Medicine transpired.
From 1972-88 he was a visiting professor at numerous universities in the United States, Europe and Israel. He was in great demand as a lecturer and had a fund of practical knowledge.  He travelled widely advising national ministries on policies. He authored or edited several books on pain relief, notably “ Relief of Intractable Pain” and over a thirty year period his academic production was consistent and prolific.

Other biographical information

Dr Swerdlow has been described as a gentleman with perfect manners, who always listened and considered the views of others and was rarely critical  without good reason.

His experiences during the theatre of WW2 enabled him to improve his fluency of the French language, but the liberation of the concentration camps affected him deeply. Retirement permitted him to develop his interests of music and painting including his violin. He was able to present a paper at the Wellcome Institute two months before his passing consequential to the complications of a brain tumour in 2003.

He was survived by his wife Elizabeth and three children.

Author and sources

Author: Innes Simon Chadwick

Sources and comments:

Obituaries, British Medical Journal 2003 Vol326 p987

Obituaries, Royal College Anesthetists Website Charlton & Nash, accessed 22 November 2021 https://rcoa.ac.uk/obituary-dr-mark-swerdlow

GMC Medical Registers 1943 accessed on line via Ancestry.com

Bibliographical  historical information accessed via Ancestry.com

Photo available at BMJ Obituaries Mark Swerdlow | The BMJ