Dr Michael Abrams CB


As Deputy Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health during the 1980s, Dr Michael Abrams, who has died aged 87, helped deal with the Aids, Chernobyl and salmonella crises. Born in Birmingham in 1932, the youngest of the three children of S P Abrams, a clothing manufacturer, and Ruhamah Emmie (née Glieberman), he was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and Birmingham University, where, after graduating in medicine in 1956, he held research and teaching positions at Birmingham hospitals.

A Research Fellow in Guy’s Hospital, he took up a prestigious Rockefeller fellowship to work in San Francisco for a year in 1963. He later became a senior lecturer in medicine at Guy’s, where he pioneered the use of computing in the medical field, leading to several publications on the topic, including Medical Computing: Progress and Problems (1970) and The Computer in the Doctor’s Office (1980).

He was appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer in 1985, and chaired the Expert Advisory Group on Aids, providing scientific advice to government.

The following year, he handled the impact of possible radiation in the UK following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He also advised on cases of salmonella-in-eggs and listeria. Colleagues praised his brilliance, dedication, modesty and kindness

Dr Abrams, known for his quiet but forceful style, was awarded a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1992. On retirement, he worked as a public health consultant, advising the governments of Chile, Uganda, Kenya, Montserrat and Peru, and served as the British chairman of the drafting committee of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine.

He chaired the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust from 1998-2003. An Orthodox Jew, he was involved in charities and served as Muswell Hill Synagogue’s first financial representative and honorary warden.

An excellent all-round athlete, he competed in Junior Wimbledon, as well as representing Birmingham University at squash.

He is survived by his wife Rosalind (née Beckman), children Rebecca, Jonathan, Jeremy and Nathan, and grandchildren. His older sister Ruth and older brother Leon predeceased him in 1974 and 2012 respectively.

nathan abrams

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