Obituaries

Charalampos Proukakis

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3736 (Published 11 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3736
  1. Nick Bouras

    Charalampos Proukakis (“Lambis”) was descended from a Cretan family whose members included Elefterios Venizelos—the most prominent and liberal Greek politician and prime minister in modern times, and friend of Lloyd George and Clemenceau—and Constantine Mitsotakis, a first cousin and a Greek prime minister in the 1990s. Lambis was born in Crete. His father, an officer in the Greek Army, fought in the battle of Crete during the second world war and later took part in the resistance. Lambis’ formative early years were marked by the German occupation of Crete and the turbulent Greek civil war that followed.

    In 1957 Lambis qualified from Athens Medical School and then trained in general medicine with a special interest in the developing field of nuclear medicine. He further specialised in haematology using radioisotope techniques at the University of Washington in Seattle, and in 1965 moved to St Bartholomew’s Medical School in London. There he joined the research team of Sir Joseph Rotblatt, initially as a research assistant and then as a lecturer. Lambis completed his PhD thesis in radiobiology.

    He was greatly affected by the work and personality of Sir Joseph Rotblatt, who was awarded a Nobel prize for peace in 1995. He maintained close contact with Sir Joseph throughout his life and remained an active supporter of the Pugwash initiative for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Lambis became an Anglophile and had a great admiration of the British values, systems, and infrastructure.

    In 1972 Lambis was elected the first professor of medical physics at the Medical School of the University of Thessaloniki and returned to Greece, where he pioneered the development of teaching and research of medical physics with an emphasis on the medical uses of radioisotopes and nuclear medicine. In 1979 he was invited to take up the newly established chair of medical physics at Athens University Medical School, and he was a driving force in establishing and developing the medical physics departments in new peripheral medical schools in Greece. He instigated the development of the telemedicine programme in Greece and set up the first pilot scheme that linked health centres from several islands with a large general hospital in Athens. The application of telemedicine in Greece, with its hundreds of islands and rural villages, was his vision for the easier delivery of high quality health care throughout the country. Its early development, while limited by the technology available at the time, was highlighted by the Lancet in 1993.

    In addition, Lambis became a very influential academic and was elected dean of the medical school and later vice rector of Athens University. He worked very hard and attempted, with partial success, to modernise the administration of Athens University and Medical School, despite major government reforms and the ongoing direct interference of political parties that has left higher education in Greece in a state of turmoil. Despite being so influential, he remained a man of integrity throughout all this political change. This was perceived by most, though not all, as a great asset.

    Furthermore, Lambis held senior positions in the atomic energy affairs of Greece and internationally. He was appointed president of the Greek Atomic Energy Commission, president of the Scientific Council of the Demokritos Research Centre, and governor of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He signed an agreement with the United States regarding responding to a terrorist nuclear attack, on which planning for the Athens Olympics security was based.

    Lambis did not seek publicity, but in 1986 he helped to alleviate the excessive worries of the Greek general public following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which threatened the economy when Greeks became very reluctant to buy the local agricultural products in fear of nuclear contamination. He was a keen writer, and, along with numerous scientific papers in top ranking international journals, he published several books, including a new look at the family background and personality of Elefterios Venizelos.

    Lambis was a gentle, methodical, and likeable man with high moral values. He had a friendly manner and was always easily available for advice and support. He was also a family man and a great and generous host with a Cretan appreciation of hospitality. Together with his wife, Avgi, an archaeologist, he entertained academics, politicians, and intellectuals both in Athens and in Avgi’s ancestral home on the island of Paros.

    He is survived by Avgi; his two sons, Christos, a neurologist in London, and Nikolas, a mathematical physicist at Newcastle University; and his daughter, Eirini, a maritime solicitor in Athens.

    Notes

    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3736

    Footnotes

    • Emeritus professor of medical physics Athens University Medical School, and president Hellenic Atomic Energy Commission (b Chania, Crete, 11 August 1934; q Athens 1957; PhD), died in Athens on 26 March 2009.

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