Obituary - Dr Mark Swerdlow

1920 to 2003

Mark Swerdlow created the specialty of pain medicine in Great Britain. Although others may claim to have started pain clinics before Mark, it was he who called together those who had an interest in the relief of pain, and he who held the meeting that led to the formation of the Intractable Pain Society (IPS) in 1967. The IPS later merged with the British and Irish Chapter of the International Association for the Study of Pain, to form the large and active body that it is today. Mark was the first Chairman of the IPS, but it is typical of the man that he arranged for another to hold the post of President while he got on with organising the running and development of the new society.

Mark Swerdlow was born in 1920 and graduated MB ChB from Manchester and held both M.Sc and MD degrees from that university. He served with distinction in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1943 to 1948 and saw service in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. On his return he specialised in anaesthesia and held the Diploma in Anaesthesia and was a Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He spent time as an Exchange Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh in 1954 before being appointed as Consultant Anaesthetist to the Salford Hospital Group, University of Manchester School of Medicine.

In 1955 he founded the pain clinic which became the North West Regional Pain Relief Centre twenty four years later and which remains to this day one of the finest pain management centres in the world. Throughout his career Mark was incredibly productive as an administrator, but it is his role as an educator that made a permanent and beneficial impact upon the management of pain. Mark wrote or co-wrote seven textbooks and numerous book chapters and articles about the clinical treatment of pain. Over a thirty year period his academic production was consistent, prolific and wide-ranging.

He was in great demand as a lecturer and had a fund of practical knowledge that was simply unsurpassable. He had an ability to recognise when techniques of pain relief were becoming outmoded and he never dwelt in the past, but encouraged all he came into contact with to change and improve their practice where possible. His worldwide contributions were recognised by over a dozen visiting professorships, membership of editorial boards and honorary memberships of national and international societies. He was Adviser to the World Health Organization Cancer Pain Relief Programme from 1981 to 1987.

The formal recognition and honours tell nothing of the gentleman who was Mark Swerdlow; a man who had perfect manners and who always listened to and considered the views of others. Mark was generous with his wisdom and practical knowledge and rarely critical without good reason. Retirement permitted him to enjoy his wide range of interests and his music and painting were a source of pleasure. He read a paper at the Wellcome Institute only two months before his sudden death from complications of a brain tumour. He was 84 years of age. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth and three children: a son, currently Professor of Epidemiology at the Royal Marsden Hospital, and two daughters. Our sympathy is extended to them all.

JE Charlton and TP Nash