William ‘Bud’ Abbott, UK Health Informatics Pioneer
Bud was one of the first generation of health informaticians (although he and his colleagues at the time probably would not have used this term). His death brings to an end an era of health informatics that started operationally in the mid-1960s. In 1948, Bud joined The London Hospital, became involved in the use of machine accounting and explored the use of computing towards the end of the 1950’s. He was instrumental in the development of hospital computing, and played a leading role in both global activities through the International Medical Informatics Association and closer to home with the establishment of the ‘Current Perspectives’ in Health Computing conference and exhibition in 1984 which became the ‘HC’ event which still runs today.
By the early 1970s, Bud was already ‘Mr-NHS Computing’ and led many of the British Computer Society Health Informatics Specialist Groups delegations to European and world events. He encouraged work and mobilised peers and novices to work together through the professional society. He had a knack of facilitating and fixing whilst also being a consummate diplomat. When we eventually brought a successful IMIA MEDINFO event to the UK in 2001, he was there, playing a vital ‘political’ role in the Local Organising Committee. He continued to guide health informatics even when operationally retired, frequently appearing in Harrogate at HC congresses and always willing to chair sessions, sometimes at very short notice! He was a mentor to many, especially in the UK and Europe, over the years.His professional legacy will be both the iconic London Hospital System and the position of UK health informatics world-wide. As Sheila Bullas, of BCS Health notes: “He was an inspiration, a gentle man and a true friend who will be sadly missed.”
UPDATED 22 December, from original popst of 19 December. Thanks in particular to Sheila Bullas; also to Mike Bainbridge, Ewan Davies, Glyn Hayes and Jean Roberts of BCS Health for the comments and recollections from which the above is drawn.
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