We were shocked to hear the sad news of a dear friend passing away, Dr Michael Schachter (Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacology, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London) who has profoundly impacted the lives of many students, colleagues and patients. He was also a much-valued member of the BJC editorial board.
I knew Mike for the past 38 years since I was a cardiology registrar at St Mary’s Hospital, London. He graduated from London University in 1974 and, prior to our friendship, Mike had already worked at the Royal Marsden, London, at Oxford and at King’s College London. In the 1980s he joined the department of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School. When St Mary’s became part of the Imperial College conglomerate in 1997, Mike took an active part in shaping its foundation in delivering quality education for aspiring doctors that continues today.
His authority in the field of pharmacology and therapeutics is profound, having a practical dominance in clinical, research and educational aspects. He was a true scientist in the traditional sense, with well-grounded contributions to translational research in pharmacology and the pharmacokinetics of cardiovascular drugs. Later on, as his educational talent shone through, Mike turned his focus to studying and limiting the incidence of drug errors. He was a regular author of articles in the BMJ spanning topics of professionalism, hypertension and prescribing practice.
Although a gentle and softly spoken fellow, Mike was truly larger than life. He often took active parts in lecturing and chairing cardiology and hypertension master classes which I organised. He was an active member of the British and Irish Hypertension Society, attending all the annual conferences.
He was a great pharmacology teacher and graduates from Imperial College remember him for his fantastic high-profiled lectures. In the early years, he became a Senior Welfare Tutor and under Mike’s leadership a welfare programme across the school was established. Many describe him as the heart and soul of pastoral care at Imperial. His holistic approach to the lives of his students was second to none – not only providing advice for their educational development, but also for their mental health and social well-being.
It was not uncommon to come across Mike surrounded by a large group of medical students in the medical school foyer. He was never judgemental, and he continuously supported and guided students regardless of their circumstance.
Mike was a constant reminder that seniority should be accompanied by humility, and that our goals and ideals could, and should, be achieved with persistent moral influence.
As doctors, we have many acquaintances in our professional lives, people we encounter that touch our hearts in many complementary ways. But it is not common to find a person who carries all the good characters in one.
Clinical Senior Lecturer, National Heart and Lung Institute/Imperial College; The Royal College of Physicians Senior Examiner; Consultant Cardiologist, London Northwest University Healthcare NHS Trust, Central Middlesex Hospital, London, NW10 7NS.