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Emeritus Professor Conrad Harris

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 30 April 2022, of Emeritus Professor Conrad Harris, former Professor of General Practice in the School of Medicine. The information for the following tribute has been provided by his son, Mark Harris.

Conrad Harris was born in Liverpool and educated at Merchant Taylors’ School, Great Crosby, graduating from the University of Liverpool 1957. He joined his father’s practice (with his sister and brother-in-law) in Bootle in 1959, remaining there for 12 years. During that time there was an extraordinary revival of general practice brought about by Health Secretary Kenneth Robinson’s Charter for General Practice of 1966, and he organised the general practice attachments of Liverpool medical students, gaining an Upjohn Travelling Fellowship to look at the extent of teaching in general practice for medical students nationally.  He set up a teaching methods course for general practitioners in conjunction with the Department for Extramural Education at the University of Liverpool, and ran teaching methods courses in the Department of General Practice in Manchester.  He co-authored the influential The Future General Practitioner, and became an Examiner for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), being its then youngest Fellow.   He served for six years as an elected Town Councillor for Bootle and he was appointed as a life member of the national Car Club by the President of Andorra.

In 1970 he decided to turn fully to an academic career and spent four years in Manchester as a Senior Lecturer in the first Department of General Practice in England, also becoming a trainer and a Vocational Training Scheme Organiser, seeing patients in the academic practice in Moss Side. Here he pioneered the use of a team of professional actors, with video playback, for teaching consulting skills to undergraduates and trainees, and became one of the first medical educationist to obtain a Master’s degree in Education. In 1974 he moved to London to set up a Department of General Practice at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, with his clinical work at a practice in Fulham. He was asked to teach Medical Sociology to pre-clinical students, and created a new kind of pre-registration rotation in the medical school, comprising four months each in Medicine, Surgery and General Practice. Its success persuaded the Department of Health to encourage similar schemes nationally. He described in the Lancet a new clinical condition in one of his patients, showing the cause to be an imperfect sulphur metabolism, and became President of the Section of General Practice of the Royal Society of Medicine.

He came to Leeds in 1986 to take up the Foundation Chair of General Practice and, in 1989, he gave the RCGPs William Pickles Lecture “Seeing Sunflowers”.  In 1990 he was funded by the Department of Health to set up a national Prescribing Research Unit which continued until 1996, at which time he headed a four year project, funded by the EU, in Ulanbaatar Medical University, Mongolia, producing a new undergraduate medical curriculum to replace the existing 60 year old Soviet model. Throughout his academic career he lectured in many countries; was very active on four RCGP Faculty Boards; wrote several books and published nearly 100 papers; thoroughly enjoyed medico-legal work as an expert witness; and always remained a practising general practitioner. He retired in 1998, at which time the title and status of Emeritus Professor was bestowed upon him by the University.  In retirement, he gained a London University Diploma in Asian Art and carried on collecting antique Chinese ceramics, Japanese woodblock prints and old Indian paintings until his London flat could hold no more, then taking up cooking. His wife predeceased him in 1996, and he leaves 3 children and 5 grandchildren.

The funeral service was held on Thursday 26 May, on which day the flag on the Parkinson Building was flown at half-mast in Professor Harris’s memory.