Peter Richards

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 18 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e492
  1. Chris McManus
  1. i.mcmanus{at}

London medical school dean and innovator in medical education

Peter Richards, physician, educator, politician, and strategist, who has died aged 75, was known through his book Learning Medicine and the television series Doctors To Be. His major influence was on St Mary’s Hospital Medical School.

Learning Medicine, first published in 1983 and now in its 18th edition, as a reviewer said, avoided portraying doctors as superhumans and students as would-be swots, treating the reader with respect and the subject with honesty. Paul Cox’s gently witty illustrations reflected Peter’s ever present humour, hinted at by a deft word or a twinkle in the eye.

Adventurous ones

Doctors To Be, the 1992 BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nominated BBC television programmes, whose “fly on the wall” filming began in 1984, initially met with hostility from St Mary’s academic board, although “in the end the adventurous ones won.” Peter saw the programmes as documenting for posterity a medical education barely changed for a century but near extinction.

In 1979, while he was a consultant physician at Chertsey, St Mary’s invited Peter to become full time dean, but he refused: “It wouldn’t be good for St Mary’s to have a full time dean, and it …

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