Robert Sang, 1948-2009

July 2, 2009

Robert Sang, the UK's first professor of patient and public involvement in health, has died.

Born in Edinburgh on March 1948, he spent much of his early life in southern England, where his father was a founding professor at the University of Sussex in the early 1960s.

The younger Professor Sang worked as a nursing auxiliary before obtaining a degree in social administration at Sussex. He then took on a variety of roles in health and social care. These formative experiences played a key part in shaping his long-term commitment to helping patients become more actively involved in their own care.

The first phase of Professor Sang's academic career began in 1982 when he joined the Faculty of Business at Brighton Polytechnic. By the time he left what had become the University of Brighton in 1993, he had risen to head of the institution's service sector management and management development department.

During his time at Brighton, Professor Sang was seconded to Ericsson Telecom on a project to build user-participation into the company's internal IT systems. He also co-directed the first national management development programme, delivered through open learning, for the Department of Health in 1993. This led to a job with the healthcare charity The King's Fund, where he created further innovative management programmes and refined his ideas on patient and service-user involvement.

Branching out to establish the Sang Jacobsson consultancy firm in 2000, Professor Sang began to contribute even more directly to strategic policy development and its implementation in the National Health Service. His prominence within this emerging field brought him back to the academy as he became the country's first professor of patient and public involvement in health, at London South Bank University, in 2006. The following year he served as a special adviser to a House of Commons select committee on this issue.

Ed Rosen, director of mentoring and coaching in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at LSBU, paid tribute to Professor Sang's "humanity, compassion and warm engagement with patients, service users and people with long-term health conditions, often the most socially excluded and marginalised in our society, for whom Bob worked tirelessly until his untimely death at 61".

He added: "He was also one of the most convivial people to work with, valued everyone's contribution and engaged even his most trenchant critics with good humour."

Professor Sang died of an acute stomach infection on 5 June and is survived by his wife, Lisa - his partner in Sang Jacobsson - two daughters and a son.

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