Francis Patrick Marsh

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 14 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1052
  1. John Cunningham

Francis Patrick Marsh (“Frank”) was born in Birmingham in 1936 and moved to Leeds with his family in early childhood. The son of Horatio and Violet Marsh, he completed his schooling at Leeds Grammar School, from where he gained admission to Caius College, Cambridge, to read medicine, graduating with a first class honours degree in 1957. He then moved to the London Hospital Medical College as a clinical student, and his medical life thereafter revolved largely around the London Hospital and its associated medical college with sojourns at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital along the way. At the age of 34 years he was appointed as a senior lecturer on the medical unit at the London Hospital Medical College under Professor Clifford Wilson (of “Kimmelstiel-Wilson Kidney”) and later as a consultant physician to the London Hospital, a post that he held from 1971 until his retirement in 2001. It was there that, in collaboration with the late Frank Goodwin, he created from scratch the Hanbury dialysis unit, initially a small dialysis programme that under his stewardship was to become one of the major renal centres in the country. In doing that he displayed the determination and commitment that was to be one of his hallmarks—he was one of that generation of “bare knuckle” nephrologists who in the 1960s and 70s managed to establish dialysis as a credible treatment for kidney failure, often in the teeth of indifference and even outright opposition from medical colleagues and politicians.

Frank Marsh was a “doctors’ doctor” to whom colleagues took themselves and their families. He was a highly intelligent man and an astute observer of people. You underestimated him at your peril. A potent mix of ability, attitude, and compassion made for a most effective physician, who was appreciated and admired by patients and colleagues alike. Right up to his retirement he remained a dedicated frontline clinician whose patients consistently benefited from generous doses of skill and compassion.

Frank Marsh’s career was also notable for his role as a medical educator. Here he was an excellent example of someone who led from the front—Frank actually taught medicine rather than spending all his time pontificating about teaching it. At the macro level he held numerous important jobs in the London Hospital Medical College, including dean of medical studies (1990-5) and in the University of London. At the micro level he greatly enjoyed his personal contacts with students and postgraduates, and even when he was a very senior member of the establishment he insisted on continuing with his own tutorial groups. His legacy as a postgraduate educator can be summed up by saying that he managed to turn a large number of would-be nephrologists into proper nephrologists, virtually all of these remaining lifelong friends.

Most unusually for a British physician educator, Frank Marsh established an important role in the western hemisphere, where he became closely involved with the American University of the Caribbean, an institution set up for the purpose of producing additional doctors trained and qualified in the American way. He served on the university’s board for many years and finished as its chairman from 2007 to 2010, stepping down only when forced to do so by ill health in the early part of 2010. In these activities Frank’s high intelligence, basic common sense, and attention to detail worked to the advantage of the many people whose medical education became his responsibility.

These commitments were formidable, yet he still found time to be a productive academic—he wrote books and published numerous papers throughout his career as well as supervising the research efforts of many young nephrologists who passed through his department.

Away from medicine, Frank Marsh was a notably good violinist who led the National Youth Orchestra in his teens and was delighted to be able to take it up again in his retirement. Sailing, skiing, and walking provided his outdoor recreations. He enjoyed a happy and productive retirement with his wife Pamela in rural Sussex. Frank Marsh was the most dedicated of doctors and a devoted family man who will be missed greatly by all who knew him. He is survived by Pamela and three children.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1052


  • Former consultant and academic nephrologist London Hospital (b 1936, q Cambridge 1957; ), d 16 January 2011.