- GB 406 SGHMS/3/HG
Hamid Ghodse was born in Iran in 1938. He was the eldest son of a large family. His father was a civil servant and mother was headmistress, and he had many aunts all involved in education. Hamid first came to the UK in 1957 for a Scout Jubilee, celebrating the centenary of Baden Powell’s birth. His childhood nickname was “doctor” and was known among friends and family for his interest in psychology from his reading of books by Dostoyevski, Rousseau, Sartre and Freud. He was always interested in biology and the biological sciences so medicine met that interest more than any other subject. Hamid went on to study medicine at Tabriz University, Iran, and qualified as a doctor in 1965 and then came to the UK to work and then qualifying as a psychiatrist.
His addiction psychiatry career began with a placement at a Drug Dependency Units (DDU) at Hackney Hospital. Whilst there, he investigated the associations between opiate addiction and users’ dental problems, which led to his PhD. He then started to consider the medical indicators of drug misuse and designed a survey of the London casualty units that became very influential upon UK drug policy at the time, and the World Health Organization adopted the methodology as a practical means of monitoring the impact of drug abuse and related problems in A&E departments in many other countries.
In 1978 he took up an addiction psychiatry consultant/senior lecturer position at St George’s, where he would remain for the rest of his career, and was appointed in 1987 to the UK’s first chair in addictions. During his time at St George’s he established the Addictive Behaviour Academic Department that comprised hospital-based out-patients clinics, in-patient assessment, detoxification, recovery and rehabilitation wards, and community-based multidisciplinary therapeutic teams, and ran many educational courses and diplomas. On his retirement from the NHS set up the International Centre for Drug Policy at St George’s
Hamid as physician was (honorary) consultant to St George’s Drug Dependence Treatment Clinic and associated in patient units for over 25 years. From small, under resourced beginnings he tirelessly developed a comprehensive range of services and treatment programmes, including the first dedicated Drug and Alcohol Liaison Team, easy access community clinics in venues as diverse as Tooting Leisure Centre, and the High Support Team for the most challenging or complex cases. He was endlessly captivated by the kaleidoscope of pathology and behaviour that our patients could present with, and after retiring from clinical practice he continued to preside over the monthly Addictions Clinical Conference Forum, where his ability to dissect, analyse and reconstruct a case presentation was unrivalled. His compassion and supreme knowledge was an inspiration to us who worked with him. Respected by patients - for whom professorial status meant nothing - he was forever known by many as “Dr Godsie”. He was, of course, too polite to correct their mispronunciation!
His work with addicts led, in 1978, to a paper for the British Medical Journal on mortality among drug addicts in London. This instilled in him a belief that monitoring drug mortality data would contribute to the prevention and treatment of addiction, as well as informing policy. As a result he set up the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (np-SAD), which gathers information from a variety of voluntary sources to inform clinicians and policy makers on risks associated with premature death due to substance misuse
Hamid presided over a huge diversity of other aspects of academic medicine more widely through the NHS, the University, Department of Health, and the Home Office. From 2006-2009, he was Medical Director of the National Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards and he held Non-Executive Directorships of the National Patient Safety Agency and National Clinical Assessment Authority. He was also advisor to the Parliamentary and NHS Ombudsman, and Chair of the International Health Advisory Board of the Department of Health. University commitments included Chair of the Subject Panel of Psychiatry and coordinator of Higher Degrees Committee at the University of London, and visiting professor to Beijing University. In all these roles his ambition was to inculcate a fair and rigorous approach. The award of an honorary CBE in 1999 and a DSc by London University in 2002 acknowledged the outstanding contributions he had made to psychiatric services and academia during his professional career.
Furthermore his internationally led to him being a member of the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board from 1992 until his death, and in this period he was president 11 times. As Board president, he worked tirelessly and did much to ensure international cooperation among the community of nations in matters of international drug control, to which he brought his outstanding academic and scientific knowledge along with his excellent leadership and diplomatic skills.
Throughout his career Hamid was a prestigious author of over three hundred research articles, and author of several books the most well known being “Ghodse’s Drugs and Addictive Behaviour; A Guide to Treatment”. He was also the Editor of ‘International Psychiatry’ and a member of the editorial advisory board for the journal Addiction.
Hamid had two particular areas of interest, these being research into drug related deaths, and the need for education in addictions and substance misuse for health professionals. These two interests led to him setting up the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths in 1997, and more latterly the Substance Misuse in the Undergraduate Medical Curriculum project, work which continues to this day.
Through his work at St George's he established himself as a leading figure in addiction science and achieved many of his hopes and aspirations, such as the establishment of a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and multi-professional training courses in addiction. A major achievement of this work was the development of national guidance on the teaching of Substance Misuse in Undergraduate Medical Education.
Throughout his career Hamid supported and encouraged the development of many professional activities at the Royal College of Psychiatrists including being the Chair of the Addictions Faculty, founding member of the Academic Faculty, and member of the Board of International Affairs. He was also the Chair (2002-20120), of the Professors of Psychiatry Club. In 2011he received the Royal College of Psychiatrists Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contribution to addiction psychiatry.
March 6th 2018