Dr Clifford Tasman-Jones (1928 – 2021)

By Dr Gil Barbezat | Posted: Sunday August 15, 2021

It is with sadness that we record the death of a remarkable New Zealander. He was a person whose life we can truly celebrate for his immense contribution to so many lives and causes in such a wide range of places and situations.

Born in Darfield, Canterbury, Cliff graduated MB, ChB from the University of Otago in 1956. He trained as a Physician, gaining his FRACP in 1963. Like many of his colleagues, he later undertook further studies in London teaching hospitals, gaining his London FRCP.

His career in Gastroenterology developed when the speciality was beginning to be better recognised internationally. He was one of the 14 Foundation Members who first met in Auckland in 1966 to form the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology. Nutrition was part of his clinical and scientific interests, and in later years he also became a Foundation member of the Nutrition Foundation, as well as a leader in the NZ Nutrition Society. In the 1990's he chaired the then Department of Health’s Nutrition task force.

I first meet Cliff while I was a Post-Doc Fellow at UCLA, when Cliff called in to the lab on his way to his study leave with Marvin Sleisenger at UCSF. His friendly personality was evident, and he became one of the influential factors resulting in our family’s eventual decision to move to NZ. When I accompanied him to Auckland in 1977, he and his charming wife, Beverley, could not have been more hospitable or gracious hosts.

His research spanned many areas, especially nutrition topics, peptic ulcer, acid suppression, mucus and H. pylori; and liver metabolism and hepatitis. He mentored many young Gastroenterologists who became well known internationally, including Sum Lee (Seattle), Ed Gane (Auckland) and Tony Clark (Canberra). He played an important part in lobbying for immunisation for hepatitis B.

Cliff is the only person who has served two terms as President of the NZ Society of Gastroenterology. His first was in the late 1970s, and he graciously accepted a second term to help out the struggling Society in the 1990s. The eventual successful outcome for our Society owes much to his outstanding contribution and leadership. He also promoted strengthened links between our Society and our Australian counterparts.

At an international level, he was recognised as a leader in the Asian Pacific Association of Gastroenterology and its' Endoscopy Society, and played a leading role in hosting their Scientific Meeting in Auckland in the early 1980's. He was a respected member of the Nominations Committee of the OMGE (Organisation Mondiale de Gastroenterologie, the World Body at that time), and recognised with awards in Italy and Australia. He was even appointed as a High Chief in Samoa.

In 2005, Cliff’s long and dedicated career was recognised when he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contribution to public health.

But there was more to Cliff the man; he was a husband, father, friend, the colleague who could be relied upon for sound advice, the mentor, the generous host, and we could go on. He was a genuine peoples’ person, with a ready smile and always helpful with an outstretched hand. He was the first person I ever heard quote the well-known Māori proverb “te tangata, te tangata, te tangata”; he certainly lived by that dictum.

His wife, Beverley predeceased him in 2017. He leaves four sons, five grandchildren and one great grandson. We offer them sincere condolences and thanks for sharing so much of Cliff with us.