Obituary: Professor David Blaney, medical educator

Professor David Blaney, senior medical educator who was a pioneer in several fields of medicine. Picture: Contributed
Professor David Blaney, senior medical educator who was a pioneer in several fields of medicine. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 24 July, 1956, in Edinburgh. Died 31 January, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 58.

David Blaney was an innovator and a pioneer in a number of fields in medical education and general practice. He had a strong drive to achieve, which was based on a wish to do the right thing for those he taught, trained and supervised. The right thing was informed by his wide knowledge of educational theory and methods and experience of general practice and the needs of patients.

He completed his own programme for vocational training in Edinburgh, including a year as GP trainee with Gordon Gaskell in Eyre Crescent. For five years he then held an innovative post in Livingston new town which was half time GP and half time lecturer in general practice at Edinburgh University. In 1986 he obtained with distinction the MRCGP.

In 1989 he joined a small rural practice in Killin which provided an ideal mix of being part of a small rural community and the opportunity to walk and run in the hills.

While there, alongside his GP work, from 1989-93 he was an HM Commissioner for Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, then a part-time lecturer in the Department of General Practice at Dundee University.

During that time he set up communication skills programmes and vocational training teaching. This interest in performance issues developed at that time.

In 1999 David became the director of Postgraduate General Practice Education for South East Scotland, a post he held for ten years. He was the director of the MSc in Clinical Education at Edinburgh University and became a visiting Professor in 2007.

From 2006-10 he was the chief executive officer for the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME). ASME is one of the leading scholarly associations for medical education with more than 2,000 members. As CEO, he was responsible for the strategic direction and governance.

From 2009-11 David was the Undergraduate Dean and Professor of Medical Education at Hull York Medical School, returning to Edinburgh as a senior medical educator at the Medical Protection Society.

David’s main research interests were in communication skills, GP appraisal and performance assessment.

These interests were put into practice as an examiner for the MRCGP, a lead assessor for the performance procedures at the GMC and a lead visitor for the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) and the GMC. He was an expert witness for the GMC in conduct cases.

He developed and led the Performance Assessment network in Scotland which was a national system for diagnosing and managing under-performance in doctors in Scotland.

He dealt sympathetically with the doctors in difficulty, encouraging reflection and change, and provided informal counsel and friendship to many colleagues. He had the ability to understand the emotional make up of other people.

His final post with the MPS embraced an educational prevention system to help doctors recognise their difficulties and respond to them.

David was a visionary leader who liked a light-touch approach. This was helped by a self-deprecating sense of humour. He developed loyal teams and colleagues and brought academic and educational rigour to questions. He was always challenging and pressed people to obtain breadth in their thinking.

David, who died of oesophageal carcinoma, had many interests outwith medicine and had an impressive knowledge of the arts, music, sport, travel and history.

He leaves his wife Julia, three children and three grandchildren.