Spence Galbraith

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 07 May 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1827
  1. Christopher Bartlett,
  2. Sarah Galbraith

    Public health doctor who transformed control of communicable disease in England and Wales

    Spence Galbraith was founding director of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre. He emphasised assembling robust information, drawn from surveillance, research, and outbreak investigations, to inform the development and implementation of national policy and best practice. The surveillance systems he instituted are today regarded as among the best in the world.

    Galbraith’s first public health appointment, after qualifying from Guy’s Hospital, London, in 1950, was as deputy assistant director of army health in Egypt in 1953, where his interest in control of infectious diseases developed. After five years as an epidemiologist in the Epidemiological Research Laboratory at Colindale he took up the post of deputy medical officer of health in Newham, east London in 1963, becoming area medical officer in 1974. From this experience he was certain that the quality of investigation and control of infections was generally inadequate. Accordingly, he organised training in communicable disease control for medical officers for environmental health and later for new consultants in communicable disease control. Galbraith was a superb communicator and organised and taught a highly regarded masters module on infectious diseases and threats to public health at the London …

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