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Jock Anderson: a man with a mission
“Jock” Anderson was born in Lincolnshire, UK, in 1924, attended Bedford School, read natural sciences at Cambridge University (interrupted by World War II), completing his degree in 1949, and then studied medicine, graduating from Middlesex Hospital Medical School in 1952.
Jock and his wife, Gwendy, whom he had met at Cambridge, were committed to selfless service to others, in both their personal and professional lives. This deeply held sense of commitment and duty was the outworking of their Christian belief, quiet conviction and faith, as they travelled to countries of the developing world with a strong awareness of God's call on their lives.
After house jobs in Bedford, Jock passed his primary FRCS, and in 1955 accepted an appointment at the CMS Christian Hospital, Quetta, Pakistan. While working as a physician and general surgeon in this 120‐bed hospital, he developed an interest and concern for the many patients with eye disease, particularly through an association with the Henry Holland Mission Hospital at Shikarpur. In 1958, he spent some months as an ophthalmic registrar at the Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, Punjab, India. It would be a further eight years before Jock returned from abroad to study for and pass his FRCS in ophthalmology.
The intervening years were characterised by his determination to bring practical help to the deprived and disadvantaged—planning and seeing the fulfilment of his vision for what became the “Caravan Hospital”, in Sind Province, Pakistan. He was medical director of this movable camp hospital during 1961–5, bringing medical, surgical and ophthalmic care to many rural communities.
In 1967, he was the opportunity to bring eye care to the people of Afghanistan, initially in association with Howard Harper FRCS. Jock became consultant ophthalmologist to the National Organisation for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR—Arabic for “light”). Later, he became the Director of Medical Education at NOOR, in recognition of his superb teaching skills, cultural sensitivity and the enormous respect of his students. This respect given to Jock as a teacher, as a person and as a man of prayer was so evident, recognised by those of his own faith, and also by friends and colleagues of other religions. In 1968, I had the privilege of working with Jock on an eye camp in Bamian, Central Afghanistan (at the feet of the “sightless” Buddhas, 8000 feet in the mountains), operating on many patients in a carefully constructed tent.
From 1973 to 1977, he was associate director, West Asia, of the mission group with which he and Gwendy were associated throughout their lives of service. At the same time, between 1974 and 1976, he was also project director of the Rural Health Care Project, Kunri, Pakistan.
Two very happy years followed as lecturer in ophthalmology at the University of Southampton Medical School, bringing Jock “back again into the swim of UK ophthalmology”, teaching undergraduates and post‐graduates.
Then, an invitation was extended in 1980 to return to the now 100‐bed NOOR Eye Institute, in Kabul, as Director of Medical Education and Research. He was to prepare Afghan doctors for their Diploma in Ophthalmology (Afghanistan). Jock upgraded and field tested his own professional achievement record as a tool for teaching clinical ophthalmology and, almost overnight, he designed a trachoma control programme for Afghanistan! These are only two examples of the huge contribution he made to a country with so many eye problems, a service that is maintained to this day, with the present estimates that 90% of eye care in Afghanistan is rendered by the NOOR Programme. This time in Afghanistan was disrupted by the increasingly volatile situation and widespread conflict in the country.
In 1981, Jock Anderson was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to social and medical needs in Afghanistan.
Professor Barrie R Jones, recognising Jock's great experience and ability to communicate and inspire those of different cultures and creeds, invited him to join the new International Centre for Eye Health—Department of Preventive Ophthalmology, Institute of Ophthalmology, London.
In 1982, he was appointed senior lecturer in preventive ophthalmology and, in 1986, honorary consultant in preventive ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital, continuing his much appreciated teaching commitment with Barrie Jones' successor, Professor Gordon J Johnson. Sadly, Jock was forced to retire early due to a benign growth affecting his spinal cord, and, despite surgery, was obliged to accept a wheelchair. His wheelchair, however, did not inhibit his successes at table tennis!
It was Jock Anderson who encouraged me to study ophthalmology, to come to Afghanistan, and who also enquired when I would join the team at the International Centre for Eye Health in London. His life, both personal and professional, has been an inspiration and of enormous significance to so many. We, who had the privilege of knowing him, are truly grateful for a life well‐lived, an example to us all through many trials at home and abroad, always returning to that position of quiet strength and trust, and confidence for the future.
He is survived by his wife, Gwendy, and their three children, Ruth, Christopher and Jean.