Intended for healthcare professionals


Fons Sips

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 10 September 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4892
  1. Tony Sheldon
  1. Utrecht, Netherlands
  1. tonysheldon5{at}

Helped forge a single voice for general practice in Europe

Fons Sips perhaps knew he was dying when the clinician treating him invited him to attend a presentation on liver disease, which Sips had been recently diagnosed as having. He readily accepted and, on the day, soon had the microphone, explaining his own x rays to the students. Sips knew his literature, accurately describing his treatment and prognosis, and, characteristic of a life promoting medical knowledge, it was Sips who ended up giving the lecture.

An internationally renowned general practitioner

Sips was one of six children born to an accountant father in the coal mining town of Heerlen in the southeastern region of Limburg, just months after the Nazi occupation in 1940. There was little to suggest that he would become that rare breed: an internationally renowned general practitioner. However, in 1941 the Ziekenfonds law for compulsory health insurance—which would form the bedrock of social medicine—was imposed; the obligation to register with a GP followed in 1949; the Dutch College of General Practitioners was formed in 1956; and in 1968 obligatory specialist GP training was instituted.

The elements were in place for Sips, who had spent the 1960s studying medicine and psychology at Nijmegen’s Radboud University, to join a generation of family doctors that would ensure a dominant place for …

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