Prof Gerry Bennett, Consultant, Heath Care of Older People

Gerry BennettHe keeps coming to my mind so I’ll put him on my blog. I used to work for him and probably still would be.

He was an exceptionally good boss and a huge influence on me in the area of anti-discrimination (particularly against people who are older, disabled or ill) but also on my dealings with people and organisations and knowing when to be an opportunist. He was in fact a genuine epitome of compassion and kindness. Thanks to him, I got to present – no strings attached – in South Africa, Canada, the US, Denmark, and Ireland. And because of opportunities like those I grew enough in confidence and intellectually to finish my PhD.

He was an excellent role model for students. Health Care of Older People is considered an unglamourous medical discipline – a lot of medical students and junior doctors seem to be primarily hoping to fix people. Gerry chose HCOP early in his career and he was also a campaigner against medical discrimination against older people and elder abuse. He was also charming, urbane, funny, fond of baseball, stylish and devoted to his friends.

I didn’t know him terribly well, because I was quite mousey back then. He built a territory, competed for funding, space and resources, and stuck up for himself in the face of Management just like anybody else, but somehow I never heard anybody say a word against him. The only snippy words we ever exchanged was when I offered to take his ailing cheeseplant into my care (he should have taken me up on that). And there was the time we failed to stop him painting his office a certain shade of pink. Although pink was his favourite colour he was colour-blind, his room would catch the afternoon sun and by about 3pm his room would be emanating reflected pink light like a red dwarf. We worked in a hospital – everything else was magnolia. Not everything actually – his secretary, also colour-blind, had chosen pistachio for the reception.

Unless I’m mistaken he’d be nearly 54. Obit in the BMJ (they’re right – working with him was fun).

Mementos – a washbag from the Karolinska Institute and a porcelain saki cup and everything I brought back from my conference trips.

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