Obituary: Eldryd Parry

Eldryd Parry

It is with great sadness that we share news of the death of Honorary Professor Sir Eldryd Parry, who trained generations of medical students and taught on the DTM&H course at LSHTM.

“His contribution to medical education in Africa is unsurpassed and he was an inspiration to us all.” Professor David Mabey pays tribute to Eldryd Parry.

Professor Sir Eldryd Parry studied medicine at Cambridge and Cardiff. In 1960, while working as a cardiology registrar at the Hammersmith Hospital, he was sent by the Professor of Medicine to spend three years at University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria. Soon after this he spent three years in the Department of Medicine at the Haile Selassie School of Medicine in Ethiopia before returning to Nigeria as Professor of Medicine at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria in 1969. He recruited a number of young doctors to work in this new medical school, many of whom became world leaders in the fields of tropical medicine and infectious diseases. In 1977 he became the Foundation Dean of Medicine at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, and from 1980 to 1985 was Dean and Professor of Medicine at what is now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. 

Eldryd was passionate about medical education and, in particular, about teaching clinicians appropriate, holistic care informed by a deep understanding of the community in which they practised. When he first moved to Africa he found that the medical students he taught were using English textbooks with content which was not suited to local needs. His response was to plan and edit a new book, Principles of Medicine in Africa, recruiting chapter authors from his many colleagues and former students, and putting disease and its prevention in the context of society and culture. The fifth edition is due to be published next year. 

In 1988 he founded the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET), which trains and supports health workers through partnerships between hospitals in the UK and those in Africa. Initially set up to serve rural patients through local programmes, THET now has national programmes in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Somaliland, and Myanmar, with many individual projects even further afield.

Eldryd continued to teach in medical schools and rural health centres in Ethiopia well into his 80s. To celebrate his 90th birthday he and his wife Helen were invited as guests of honour on a tour of Nigeria, where two former heads of state attended his lecture at the University of Ilorin.

As Honorary Professor at LSHTM since 1988 he left his indelible mark upon generations of Professional Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene students, challenging them with the question ‘why should this person, from this place, fall ill in this way, at this time?’ Even in later life he would cycle to LSHTM from his home in Fulham, and always brought his tennis racquet to the annual DTM&H sports day in Blackheath. His contribution to medical education in Africa is unsurpassed and he was an inspiration to us all.