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Br J Gen Pract. 2008 August 1; 58(553): 587.
PMCID: PMC2486391

Professor Jan Van Es

Jan Van Es died on 28 June 2008 at the age of 86. In 1966 he was the first GP in the Netherlands to be appointed to a university professorship. He held a newly created chair in the University of Utrecht, at first combining this with his practice at Apeldoorn and later, with editing a medical journal.

I first met him in 1972 at Leeuwenhorst, near Haarlem, at a conference centre in the middle of the Dutch bulbfields, in full bloom. The conference proved to be important because it led immediately to the formation of the Leeuwenhorst European Study Group. Representatives from 11 European countries (from both sides of the ‘iron curtain’) agreed on a European definition of the role of the GP in healthcare. This became widely accepted as a basis for creating specific early postgraduate training programmes for future practitioners.

Jan followed Patrick Byrne as chairman of this group and I was secretary to them both. The group continued to meet twice yearly for the next 7 years in different member countries before handing over its important role to a younger group representing 21 countries.

For me, Jan was an especially close friend over 36 years. We talked by telephone every week during the 2 years of his final illness.

He had the gift of always making other people feel valued. I have known very few other colleagues who have been such good listeners or so good at drawing out contributions from a large audience in a lecture theatre.

Jan chose to be an associate of our College in 1963. In 1967, the College presented him with its honorary fellowship. The Dutch government honoured him with a knighthood in 1982. I cannot believe that he is no longer there to talk to.

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