The news of the passing of Professor Tim Evans on Friday November 9th was greeted with immense shock and sadness throughout Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals.
Professor Evans held many impressive formal positions within the Trust and elsewhere, but was also a mentor, an inspiration and a friend to many.
As a physician he was respected throughout the world and was a major driver in the maturation of critical care as an independent specialty in the UK, through influences at Royal College level, the Intensive Care Society, and more recently and importantly in founding the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.
A large number of doctors in critical care the world over have been influenced by him. Some rotated through Royal Brompton’s Adult Intensive Care Unit or respiratory medicine division, some had the benefit of him as research supervisor. Many of them have gone on to have successful careers in the UK and internationally, counting him as one of the most important influences in their lives.
Professor Evans won many accolades for his clinical expertise. His interest in acute lung injury and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, ARDS, which started in the mid-1980s, led to him rapidly becoming a world authority in ARDS. Research collaborations which followed were the start of Royal Brompton’s role as a national referral centre for severe acute lung failure and the reason why the Trust is now a major ECMO centre.
But the respect of his peers pales into insignificance when compared to the regard in which Professor Evans was held by his patients. The relationship he had with many of his ‘long-term’ patients was the envy of colleagues.
Chief Executive Bob Bell commented: “It was this genuine focus on patients that, in my view, made him such a brilliant medical director. Tim would never compromise on putting patients first and providing safe and high quality care.
“It is difficult to summarise the immense contribution he made to the Trust: his clinical expertise and leadership, his passion for research and education, the significant contribution he made over several years on the Trust Board and other management bodies. He was also a highly valued and popular Trustee of the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity.
“Men like Professor Tim Evans come along once in a generation. Our thoughts are with his wife and children at this deeply sad time.”
Professor Tim Evans – in the words of his colleagues:
“He always demanded excellence in intensive care, and never allowed vague or non-critical thinking. He taught at every opportunity, and his ability to distil complex physiology/pathophysiology at the bedside, and apply evidence-based medicine appropriately (and explain where and how it should not be applied where inappropriate) was extraordinary.”
“He motivated his clinical team to always give of their best. As a junior doctor, when it was Tim’s week, there was no question that you would not know every detail about each patient under your care. Not because he bullied or shouted at the juniors, but to be the very best you could be was what he inspired in all.”
“He was the first and only intensive care leader to recognise the importance of cardiology in intensive care, pushing to make it possible to work as both a cardiologist and intensivist. This was years before the recognition of cardiac intensive care as a subspecialty – which is only just emerging in Europe and North America. This gives an idea of how visionary he was, and put the Royal Brompton ICU at the forefront of future medicine.”
“He valued his nursing staff as true partners in patient management, and advocates for the patients and their relatives. Even to the most junior nurse by the bedside he would stop, ask their opinion and input, and always have time to discuss the importance of their input to the care of and decision-making for that patient. The resulting loyalty of the whole nursing team to the unit has stood the testament of time – and is one of many parts of the extraordinary legacy that he leaves.”
“In the early 1990s the Royal Brompton intensive care unit was regarded as the ‘only’ place to go to undertake critical care research, and this was entirely down to Tim. Others have come since – and many of them trained and/or collaborated with him, but he was the first to really put critical care research in the UK to the level we now take for granted, collaborating with clinicians and basic scientists alike.”
“He supported the RBH intensive care unit developing respiratory ECMO when it was still un-commissioned, leading to us becoming one of the five nationally commissioned centres, and now RB&HFT together being the largest centre for ECMO in the UK, with results exceeding those of international registries. This success came from his collaborative approach and demanding only excellence, at every stage in patient care, up to and including follow-up of patients with previous ARDS in his clinics, providing ICU follow-up as routine years before it became mainstream.”
“On an early trip together to Norwalk in Connecticut, setting up some research relationships, we made a short side trip to Yale where he had been opportunistically invited to give a grand round ARDS presentation - to a packed house. I guess that was when I cottoned on that he was such a world stage player.”
“I’ll always remember him for knowing every single person’s name in the hospital and being genuinely interested in them and their lives. He was an absolute inspiration and not just for his amazing clinical skills.”