Aubrey Sheiham (1936-2015)

My friend Aubrey Sheiham, emeritus professor of Dental Public Health at UCL, has died at 79 of the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma.

A dental epidemiologist, he was a pioneer of evidence-based medicine. In 1977, his research showed that six-monthly dental check-ups might do more harm than good by leading to overtreatment. This was not popular with his colleagues but was eventually accepted by NICE. Other examples of routine check-ups leading to the danger of overtreatment have emerged since.

He was also a pioneer in emphasising the importance of diet in dental health and drawing attention to how inequalities in society lead to inequalities in dental health.

He was an early collaborator with Archie Cochrane who inspired the foundation of the Cochrane Collaboration; he was dedicated to improving health in underdeveloped countries, including his native South Africa. He and his wife, Helena Cronin (philosopher and Darwinian theorist),* generously supported evidence-based medicine researchers mainly in Africa.

He was fit and healthy, maintaining his interest in his work despite being technically retired, as well as developing an interest in ceramics and sculpture. It seems that he was exposed to asbestos early in his career, probably in dental dressings containing asbestos.

I will remember him as an immensely kind person who was always interested in the well-being of others.

The following links are to an on-line obituary in The Guardian by Michael Marmot, tributes from UCL and the Cochrane Collaboration, and a description of the Aubrey Sheiham Award:

*author of The Ant and the Peacock.


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