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The British Society for Digestive Endoscopy 1971-1980; In memoriam

Personal recollections after 30 years

Most gastroenterologists today probably do not know that there was once a British Society for Digestive Endoscopy.

We thought that this personal memory might be of interest, 30 years after it merged with the BSG.

Peter B Cotton [ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ]
Klaus FR Schiller

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Obituary: Klaus Schiller, Endoscopy Pioneer

Klaus Schiller

Klaus Schiller

Klaus Schiller passed peacefully at the age of 83, on 9 July, after a short illness.

The only endoscopy procedure that I ever saw before diving in on my own was performed by Klaus Schiller in 1968, in a darkened side-room at St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey. Klaus had joined the consultant staff after completing his training with Sidney Truelove in Oxford. Sidney had obtained one of the first Olympus gastroscopes, which had a biopsy capability, and his BMJ article extolling its value fired the enthusiasm of his trainees, including Klaus. I was one of a small band of young British gastroenterologists in the late 1960s who explored the value of upper endoscopy, without maps, books, or teachers. The gastroenterology establishment was not impressed by this new enthusiasm, and most of the protagonists too junior for BSG membership. Klaus saw the need to get us together and convened a meeting of "young turks", which led to the formation of the British Society for Digestive Endoscopy (BSDE) in 1971.

Sidney Truelove risked the scorn of his senior BSG colleagues in agreeing to become the first president of the BSDE, but Klaus did most of the work as administrative secretary. He organised us with multicoloured agenda papers and meetings that seemed to last for several days, and was the driving force behind the development of popular BSDE training materials and teaching meetings. Early on, he also saw the need to explain the value of endoscopy at the national level. We were all struggling to satisfy rapidly increasing demand for endoscopy services without the necessary resources, and indeed without any official appreciation of the revolution that was underway.

Klaus was the lead author of the important document Memorandum on the Future National Needs for Fibre-optic Endoscopy of the Gastrointestinal Tract presented to the Chief Medical Officer of the NHS in 1972. It included the ringing Klausillian phrase: “It is no longer acceptable to do what is possible with available resources, but necessary to press for the facilities, equipment and staff to do what should be done.” Klaus continued to guide the BSDE and the burgeoning field of endoscopy through the 1970s, and subsequently on the Endoscopy Committee of the newly enlarged BSG.

Gastrointestinal endoscopy is now mature, and its diagnostic and therapeutic value is rarely challenged. None in Britain should doubt the huge impact Klaus had in steering us through the confusing and turbulent early days. We all owe him our sincere thanks.

Peter B Cotton

Dr Cotton is Medical Director of the Digestive Disease Center, Professor of Medicine, and Assistant Dean for International Activities at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, USA