Edinburgh & East of Scotland Society of Anaesthetists

This essay on Nick Gordon has kindly been provided by Dr Geoff Sharwood-Smith, a personal friend of Nick Gordon's and himself a former president of EESSA.

Nick Gordon

Why is there a Nick Gordon Medal?

More than anything else, perhaps, the Nick Gordon Medal commemorates the life of a former EESSA Honorary Secretary and President who contributed energetically to the support and training of medical students and trainees.

But to fully appreciate the contribution of Nick's career it is important to know that he lived during a truly extraordinary and creative era in the development of anaesthesia. By the 1970's, anaesthetists had already developed a diversity of specialist services that were founded on twenty or so years of hard work in the applied basic and clinical sciences. The services included cardiac and obstetric anaesthesia, including epidurals and neonatal ventilation, intensive care units and pain clinics. As an example of the pace of change, when Nick went to his first meetings of EESSA they were sometimes also attended by a senior member who had once offered the only service available in one 1917 hospital - open ether! It was difficult enough for anaesthetists themselves to adapt to these rapid changes, but perhaps even more so for colleagues in the established specialities of medicine and surgery with their long traditions and ancient colleges. In fact anaesthetists had only fairly recently been recognised as consultants in the NHS and the equivalent of today's RCA, the 'Faculty of Anaesthetists' was an offshoot of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

By the 1990's the 'culture of management' had arrived in the public sector. Nick took a positive view on this change and the opportunities on offer. In fact it was to become an arena in which he excelled. Earlier in his career, and with an eye for a good acronym, he had already set up 'ACTA', the group that still represents the interests of trainees. He was a natural manager, not a clumsy confrontational or micro manager, but an intelligent manager. This skill was built on an easy going, humorous and friendly nature together with a capacity to network with, yes, and organise his colleagues in other disciplines. He is perhaps best remembered for his arrival when chairing a meeting. Always a natty dresser he would often be seen sporting a bow tie above a well cut, blue, pinstripe suit. There would be a friendly twinkle in the eye and a kind exchange with one or two individuals. A black executive briefcase would then be snapped open to reveal a neat portfolio of documents swiftly followed by the digital organiser and keyboard. Like many anaesthetists Nick was a technophile.

Nick once commented that his teaching role, both in and out of theatre, was the most rewarding part of his work. When he died prematurely and for many, unexpectedly, he was sorely missed. Nick and his wife Ali had a wide network of friends, relatives and colleagues, both locally and also extending distantly to North America and mainland Europe. Many of them came to a crowded memorial ceremony and so testified to the affection in which he was held.

So the Nick Gordon Medal is given in memory of a perfect ambassador for our speciality as it endured various rites of passage in its relationships with other disciplines. It also recalls the support and encouragement given over the years to many an embryo anaesthetist, including this one.