Nottinghams Eminent Surgeons and Physicians


Dr. Brendan Jacobs

Those meeting Brendan, Jacobs the first time might be forgiven for imagining him to be an academic of sorts the enigmatic smile of welcome, the cultured words of greeting, and the whispy white hair-a bit wild and balding, coloured shirt and sports jacket all seemed to fit the bill! The first impression would of course be incorrect. He became a partner in a busy practice in Arnold, at that time (1953) a bustling working class suburb of Nottingham, becoming an area of mixed social class. He became President of the Nottingham Medico- Chirurgical Society for the year 1982/3 and still claims to look back in some awe and amazement at being invited to take up the office.

Brendan Jacobs was born in Dublin and educated at Oundle and Cambridge. He completed his clinical studies at the Westminster Hospital in London, qualifying in 1944.

From 1944 to 1951 he undertook posts at the Westminster Hospital, Kent and Canterbury Hospital, and the Westminster Children’s and a 6 month postgraduate course at the Rotunda Hospital Dublin. A period of National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps intervened from 1945 to 1947. From 1951 to 1953 he was doing full time epidemiological research in The Department of Human Ecology at Cambridge. In 1952 he became a Foundation member of the College of General Practitioners, an exciting development.

In 1953 Brendan and his wife decided that General Practice was to be their future. He was lucky enough to be accepted by a practice in Nottingham. One of the two partners then was Dr John Graham with whom he immediately established a rapport. Their subsequent friendship resulted in what they claimed as the basis for a respected Practice. The practice had a previous long history of single handed doctors working from and living in the same house - Arnold House on Church Street. The practice moved to the Health Centre on High Street in 1969. By the time Brendan retired the Practice had grown to a seven partner teaching practice, moving again to purpose built premises nearby in 1990.

For Brendan who previously had 15 years or so as a Nottingham GP, the Coming of the new Medical School with associated departments, staff and the 4foundation professors provided a fresh stimulus. The Nottingham Vocational Training Scheme (VTS) developed from the early 1970s and, on his own admission, with some trepidation he became one of the early trainers. This was the embryonic germ (part of it) of the University Department of General Practice, which was to grow from strength to strength over the next three decades. The attachment of students and postgraduates was, in Brendan's view, one of the best preventatives of partners becoming stale.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the psychoanalyst Dr Michael Balint of the Tavistock Clinic, became well know for his interest in what the GP can do for the wide variety of neuroses and the high prevalence of hidden emotional disorders. Having read his seminal work – ‘The Doctor, His Patient and the Illness’ - Brendan became interested. After rigorous inquiry by Balint about the reasons for wanting to join his seminar group at that time-(a most daunting of interviews!) -Brendan went to the weekly sessions in London for a year. It helped him to practice a part of General Practice that he had never learned in Medical School.

He became a member of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society, then based at 64 St James Street, Nottingham in 1954. He remembers well the lanternslides, the tangle of wires to trip over, uncomfortable chairs, but a most attractive house. Before the coming of the Medical School the Nottingham' Med/Chi ' was almost the only facility for postgraduate study for GPs. It was, and still is, a good place for doctors of all disciplines to meet each other and benefit from a “getting to know each other" kind of way. As Honorary Secretary in the 70s he found the job (as other Honorary Secretaries do) of summarising the wisdom of the visiting lecturer’s words for the Minute Book, both a challenge and good for the "listening ear and eye".

This latter topic he took for the subject of his Inaugural Address to the Society entitled" Visual Language" which was very well received, as was the remainder of the programme. Many willrecall with delight the talk given by his old friend P D James (later Baroness James) the crime writer. It was possibly the shortest given to the Society, some said it was one of the best, but would agree that it is invidious to compare, considering the enormous variety of subjects and speakers.

A cultured man of wide interests, Brendan Jacobs personified general practice at its very best. In his retirement he continues to contribute a few thoughts on rare occasions to the journals, and can be found swimming every morning in the local pool - except when he hasn't done his home work for his Wednesday morning French conversation class!