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cedric abbott

Dr Cedric R Abbott, BSc, MB, ChB, FRCPath

Many members will already be aware that, very sadly, Dr Cedric Abbott, former Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in the Department of Pathology, died on 31 December 2013.

Dr Abbott, who was born in January 1937 at Kirkby-in-Ashfield, attended The Brunts Grammar School in Mansfield, where he met his wife-to-be, Phyl, at the age of 16 and was introduced to his other lifelong partner, the double bass. He read Medicine at the University of Birmingham.  Whilst at medical school Dr Abbott rebelled against classical music in favour of playing jazz, winning many prizes at inter-University jazz competitions.  Having obtained an intercalated BSc degree in Anatomy with First Class Honours in 1958, he graduated MB, ChB in 1961.  Following his house officer posts in Birmingham General Hospital (where he was subsequently followed by his daughter and future son-in-law 20 years later), he undertook his preliminary training in Clinical Pathology as a senior house officer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.  In June 1963, he was appointed registrar in Clinical Pathology in the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI), his duties being divided between the Department of Haematology and the Institute of Pathology. 

Dr Abbott proved himself from the outset an able and energetic asset to the haematology service and the then head of the University Department of Pathology lost no time in securing his appointment to a vacant lectureship.  Dr Abbott took up this post at the end of 1964.  During the ensuing years, he established himself as a much-respected histopathologist, whose diagnostic abilities were highly regarded by his clinical and pathology colleagues.  He was responsible for establishing a cytogenetics service for the LGI and a number of regional hospitals, running the service for several years until the establishment of the Regional Cytogenetics Unit at St James’s University Hospital.  He also established a service in tissue typing, which operated for a number of years as part of the LGI’s dialysis and kidney transplant programme until the Regional Blood Transfusion Service assumed responsibility for the service.  One of his major responsibilities was management of the post-mortem service for the LGI.  Dr Abbott was granted honorary Consultant status by the local health authority in 1981.  He was a Member, later Fellow, of the Royal College of Pathologists.  Within the University, he was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1990.

Throughout his career, Dr Abbott maintained a lively interest and involvement in clinical research.  The results of the research in which he participated were published in journals including the Lancet, the British Medical Journal, the Journal of Clinical Pathology and the Journal of Endocrinology.  In his early days in Leeds, he developed a small blood culture operation for the study of human chromosome abnormalities and, together with a colleague, instituted biological-assay work for folic acid and vitamin B12.  He contributed to the development of techniques for tissue compatibility testing for renal graft surgery.  He also devoted considerable time and effort to providing essential, highly-specialised pathological support for the research activities of the University Department of Surgery at the LGI, specifically its long-term surveys into the management of inflammatory bowel disease and cancer of the colon.  In the last two decades of his career, however, Dr Abbott concentrated on research projects relating to cardiovascular disease, collaborating extensively with a series of joint University/NHS research groups.

Teaching was a further area in which Dr Abbott excelled.  During his time in Leeds, he was extensively involved in teaching pathology to undergraduates and postgraduates.  He was for many years solely responsible for organising the lecture and practical class programme in general pathology for Third Year dental students.  On a number of occasions, he was invited to act as Visiting Lecturer in the medical undergraduate teaching programme at the University of Ghana.  He also took a full share of the supervision of junior pathology staff working for higher professional qualifications.  He taught them cardiovascular pathology and how to perform a high-quality post-mortem, and prepared them for their nerve-wracking first appearance in front of Her Majesty’s Coroner.

Dr Abbott was fully seized from an early stage of the virtues and values of information technology.  In the late 1980s, he was instrumental in completely restructuring the commercial software for the Department of Pathology’s computer system – critical to the effective fulfilment of the department’s service role within the Leeds Western Health Authority – to make it fit for purpose.

Following a reorganisation, Dr Abbott transferred from the University to the NHS payroll in 1993.  However, his involvement in pathology teaching and participation in clinical research continued enthusiastically until his retirement in 2002 and indeed he was still helping clinical colleagues with their projects in retirement.  During his period in the employ of the NHS, the University conferred upon him the title of Senior Clinical Lecturer in Histopathology.

In his free time, Dr Abbott was a keen long bow archer with the Bowmen of Adel, holding every position on their board and continuing his love of teaching by introducing many people to archery.  His double-bass jazz playing continued with the 7th City Jazz Band, firstly at the Astoria and later at the Gipton pub.  He and Phyl also travelled widely in search of rare flora or fauna to Canada, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Costa Rica, South Africa and many European countries.  They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2009, surrounded by their children and grandchildren, at the same pub in which, aged 21, they had marked their marriage.

Dr Abbott is survived by his wife, Phyl, daughter Jacqueline (who followed her father into the medical profession) and son, Michael.  As a last gift to academic learning and the medical profession he donated his body to the University of Leeds for scientific research for the benefit of others.

The funeral service was held at 11.00 am on Friday, 17 January 2014, at Lawnswood Crematorium, Leeds with a very large attendance of friends, colleagues and family.  In Dr Abbott’s memory, the flag was flown at half-mast on the Parkinson Building on the day of the funeral.