Tim Cooke, 1947-2008

A pioneer of multidisciplinary cancer research, described as a true visionary in the field, has died.

September 4, 2008

Tim Cooke, St Mungo professor of surgery at the University of Glasgow, was killed in a car crash in Lanarkshire on 20 July, aged 60. He took the St Mungo chair in 1989, having previously been a lecturer at the University of Southampton and senior lecturer at Charing Cross Hospital and the University of Liverpool, from where he graduated in medicine in 1973.

In 1980, he published his MD thesis on hormonal aspects of breast cancer and a series of scientific papers, for which he was awarded the Hunterian Professorship of the Royal College of Surgeons. He remained interested in the biological aspects of cancer and their relationship to cancer therapy for the rest of his life.

His friend and colleague Roy Rampling, professor of neuro-oncology, who gave the eulogy at his funeral, said that Professor Cooke had originally planned to study zoology, but decided to study medicine after seeing the care that his ailing grandmother received from her local GP.

Professor Cooke was educated at Birkenhead Institute. Other former pupils of the institute included the war poet Wilfred Owen. "Tim was devoted to Owen's poetry and shared passionately his anti-war sentiment," Professor Rampling said. By the time Professor Cooke came to Glasgow, Professor Rampling said, he had become one of the first surgeons to recognise the need to integrate the various disciplines of cancer medicine through the concept of multidisciplinary team-working. This is now the standard approach in most cancer treatment across the UK.

"Tim was a forward thinker, a visionary. He wanted his science to work for the benefit of his patients," Professor Rampling said. "It is why individualising cancer care remained the central theme of his academic and clinical life."

Professor Rampling said that Professor Cooke's achievements at Glasgow included 186 peer-reviewed scientific papers, innumerable invited lectures, 25 supervised higher degrees by thesis, winning £2.5 million of research funding in the last four years alone, and the unification of Glasgow's two units of academic surgery. He was also active on numerous funding and policy committees for cancer.

Professor Cooke was also an educator, in the vanguard of those bringing problem-based learning into the undergraduate curriculum, a shift encouraged by the General Medical Council. In his NHS work, he was associate medical director of surgery and anaesthetics for Glasgow and an honorary consultant surgeon.

Friends have said that in his private life he was generous and gregarious, a sportsman with a wide range of intellectual pursuits, but above all a family man. He is survived by his wife Lynn, a consultant ENT surgeon, and six children.


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