Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 13-April-2007, Vol 120 No 1252
Graham Frank Joplin
1927 – 2007
Graham was Wellington born and bred, and attended Island Bay School and Wellington College, where his father was a master. He graduated from Otago Medical School in 1951—a high flyer in a high flying year. House jobs in Wellington led to academic posts (including Professor of Endocrinology) at the Postgraduate Medical School (Hammersmith Hospital, London) where he had a distinguished career.
Graham was a meticulous clinician who believed in the value of careful observation and how this would lead to a better understanding of how disease behaved.
As a result, he published a long series of papers in international journals which literally established modern endocrine treatment.
People flocked from around the globe to visit the Unit that he and Russell Fraser established at Hammersmith Hospital. His patients always did exceptionally well, simply because he listened to (and examined) them so carefully.
The team he led was of the highest standard because he put such weight on effective education and maintaining the strongest esprit de corps. He was a very kind man, worked tirelessly and frequently entertained his team at home—his charming wife, Helen, had been his ward sister, and their two daughters are truly carbon copies of their parents.
His chirpy good humour was perhaps his most engaging asset. He was delighted once to be able to relate a collision of his Austin 7 with a cow in rural New Zealand, which resulted in a bellow from the latter, and total destruction of the former. Camping with Graham was great fun; problems were dealt with by ingenious improvisation, and transport arranged by anything from hitch-hiking upwards. The best example of the former was a lift from some IRA lads in Ireland, and of the higher levels of transportation, landing in a propeller plane in a sandstorm in Egypt. He barely escaped with his life, but later gave his usual incisive and intelligent lecture.
Shortly before retiring he sadly developed severe Parkinsonism which eventually left him incapacitated and needing institutional care, and from which he died.
Final memories are a of a quiet self-effacing man who made an enormous contribution to endocrinology, but who always put people first—family, colleagues, patients. He was a role model and it is very difficult to be as good, hospitable, funny, and as fond of orchids as Graham.
Professor Stephen Bloom (Graham’s successor at Hammersmith) and Dr Peter Dykes (Birmingham) compiled most of this obituary. Additional information on Graham’s early life in New Zealand was provided by Dr Colin Fenton (Wellington), while Dr Bill Brabazon (Auckland), another of Graham’s contemporaries, coordinated its writing and sending to the NZMJ.
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