By Dr Gil Barbezat | Posted: Monday February 18, 2019
Dr Gil Barbezat shares his memories of a colleague and friend
It is with great sadness that we received the news of Robin’s recent death. He has been a stalwart of the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology for many years. Although many of us did not share all that much time with him at a personal level, he was the type of person we fondly remember as a smiling friend who was always ready with an encouraging comment. He was raised in a medical family. An Otago graduate, as was his late wife Anne, Robin completed his training as a Specialist Physician with a special interest in Gastroenterology and worked as a Consultant at Tauranga Hospital from 1962-93. He succeeded Dr EG Jones as the Head of the service, which has now grown into one of the Country’s major centres.
Amongst the patients in Tauranga, Dr Jones had recorded a family cohort of Maori ethnicity who presented with a devastatingly frequent diagnosis of stomach cancer at a young age; he reported these findings in the NZ Medical Journal in 1964. Having inherited the challenge of managing these patients, Robin collared me while we were waiting to board a delayed flight back to NZ after a Gastro Society Meeting in Hobart. He detailed the problem and asked in anything could be done to further investigate this issue. Knowing that Dr Tony Reeve was interested in this type of genetic challenge, Robin, Tony and I subsequently met over cups of coffee in Dunedin to work on a plan of action. In summary, Dr Parry Guilford was hired in the Biochemistry Dept in Otago to conduct this investigation, and the rest, as they say, is now history. The ground-breaking publication in the journal Nature appeared in 1998, with Robin’s contribution recognised as a co-author. He is remembered as having initiated this venture.
Robin and his wife and family were well integrated into the Tauranga community. Their generosity is recognised in the Robin and Anne Scoular Scholarship, established to provide funding for an Otumoetai College student wishing to undertake tertiary study. Robin also contributed to the “Threads of Memory (2015)” programme in Tauranga, recounting his father Stuart Scoular’s contribution as a Medical Officer in the NZ Hospital in France during World War I. Robin was a life member of the Otumoetai Rotary Club.
The memory of his warm fellowship and smiling encouragement remain with those who have met him. He will be sorely missed, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to his remaining extended family.