Professor Brian Cooke (1920-2007)
Emeritus Professor Brian Ernest Dudley Cooke, Founder Dean and Professor of Oral Medicine and Oral Pathology of the Dental School, University of Wales, College of Medicine, 1961-1982, died at his home at Pembroke on September 28th, 2007, at the age of 87.
Brian Cooke qualified in dentistry at the London Hospital which he left in 1942 to join the Royal Navy Reserve as a Surgeon Lieutenant (Dental), serving in the cruiser HMS Nigeria and the hospital ship HMHS Ophir in the East Indies Fleet in the Second World War. After the war, he completed his medical training. He was awarded a Nuffield Fellowship in pathology, spending a year in the Bernard Baron Institute for General Pathology, directed by Professor Dorothy Russell and after a further Nuffield Fellowship, was appointed as Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, then Reader in Dental Medicine under Professor Martin Rushton, the greatest influence in his career, at Guy’s Hospital Dental School. In 1955, he was awarded the Cartwright Prize and Medal by the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Chesterfield Prize and Medal by the Postgraduate Institute of St John’s Hospital. His private tuition course at his home for candidates for the Fellowship in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons was attended by many postgraduates from Britain and overseas – it was said that only those who had been on Brian’s course stood a chance of passing the examinations!
In 1961, he was appointed as the First Dean and Professor of Oral Medicine of a new Dental School of the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff, the only newly funded British dental school established in a purpose built building in the twentieth century.
The new Dental School was created as a priority in Wales where severe dental disease, particularly dental caries, was widespread in the pre-fluoridation era and there were few dentists. Working from a small office and with one secretary, Brian had to plan the new school and hospital, liaising with architects and planners, recruit the first academic and hospital staff and design the first degree course. Brian’s motivation, hard work, infectious enthusiasm and great integrity made him an effective leader. The resulting Dental School and Hospital has proved a great success and the undergraduate teaching and the research are rated highly in national university assessment exercises. Brian was an enthusiastic teacher who inspired his students and many of his staff have gone on to academic and clinical distinction. The dental health of the people of Wales has improved out of recognition and the Principality is now well provided with dentists. The dental hospital is a post-graduate training centre and provides specialist surgical and dental services.
Brian Cooke published a number of significant papers in oral medicine and oral pathology and an influential textbook (co-author with Martin Rushton and Roy Duckworth. His department became known nationally for its research and publications but Brian’s own research was curtailed by his load of administration, teaching and clinical duties.
At the national level, he was Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons and President of the Odontology section of the Royal Society of Medicine and served on the General Dental Council and other bodies. He was much in demand as a lecturer and visiting examiner in Britain and overseas.
In 1948, Brian married Neilla (nee Hope) who was a staff nurse at the London Hospital, who survives him. Throughout their 59 years together, Neilla provided the love and support Brian needed in fulfilling all his many responsibilities. Brian and Neilla regularly welcomed all staff to parties in their garden and home in Lisvane and they entertained visiting examiners and other academics or pathologists. Neilla not only knew the names of all the school staff but those of their families. This was important in maintaining staff morale and building an esprit de corps at the new Dental School. In retirement, Brian pursued his considerable interests in poetry and literature, philately, furniture making and History of Medicine. Their son, Nigel, is now a consultant physician and their daughter, Susan, a nurse practitioner.
Brian Ernest Dudley Cooke, University Educator and Administrator, born January 12th 1920, died September 28th 2007.
Professor John Miller, former Dean, Cardiff Dental School and Professor Murray Walker, Cardiff Dental School