20 February 2019

BSH was saddened to learn of the death of former President Dr Bryon Roberts on Thursday, 10 January 2019.

Bryon Edward Roberts was born in 1933, the first child of Alice and Albert Roberts, the Labour Member of Parliament for Normanton. Bryon was President of BSH in 1993/94.

He entered Leeds Medical School in 1951, three years after the founding of the NHS. After qualification he worked as House Surgeon to Mr Digby Chamberlain and Mr Michael Oldfield, all protégées of the legendary Berkley Moynihan, the founding father of aseptic surgery, notably of the abdomen.

After house jobs he followed up on his scientific interest in Pathology and was appointed Registrar in the University Department of Pathology. In training at the same time was Dr Arthur Bloom who became a lifelong friend. In those days, there was no separate haematology laboratory and the training on offer fairly minimal. However, Bryon’s career path was transformed when he received an invite to apply for a registrar post from Professor John Dacie at the Hammersmith Hospital. He had been impressed by the fact that Bryon had made a diagnosis of HCL in 3 patients when material had been sent to him for confirmation.

He spent a year there which he describes as the most formative and exciting of his career and remembers fondly the excellent training he received from the then giants of haematology, John Dacie and David Galton. He returned to Leeds determined to try and reproduce some of the excellence he had observed. Working as a Lecturer in Pathology, he worked with the recently appointed Head of the Haematology Laboratory, Charlie Buchan to improve standards to that he had experienced in London.

He was appointed as acting consultant haematologist to the infirmary, while still performing his pathology duties including post mortems. In his book, ‘Blood on my Hands’, he described how his career was being held back by the then Professor of Pathology, who was resisting the proposal to create a NHS Department of Haematology. Eventually this prevailed, and in June 1970 Bryon was appointed as Consultant Haematologist to Leeds General Infirmary, with access to beds on the professorial medical unit.

Over the next few years he oversaw quite significant developments in both laboratory and clinical haematology, including the development of a registrar training scheme and the introduction of a chemotherapy service for haematological malignancies. Most notably, he oversaw the development of a immunodiagnostic laboratory under Dr Steve Scott, the forerunner of the Haematological Malignancies Diagnostic service (HMDS) which became a paradigm for how haematological diagnostic services should be organised and developed.

Always forward thinking, Bryon was the heart of many other innovations including a management training course for haematology trainees and the development of a semi-autonomous independent Institute of Pathology to manage pathology services.

He leaves a widow Audrey and a son David.

We extend our condolences to Dr Roberts' family and friends at this sad time.