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Public health champion Sir Alexander Macara dies, aged 80

Former BMA council chair Sir Alexander Macara has died at the age of 80.

Educated at Glasgow University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Sir Alexander became a consultant senior lecturer in epidemiology and public health medicine at Bristol University.

During an exceptional life of public service he chaired the BMA medical ethics committee, representative body and finally its council from 1993 to 1998.

He was also a consultant for the World Health Organisation for more than 20 years, and chaired the National Heart Forum, remaining its president until his death.

He campaigned tirelessly against the ‘monstrous and cynical’ tobacco industry, and played a considerable role in securing smoke-free public places.

BMA council chairman Hamish Meldrum said: ‘It’s terribly sad to hear about Sandy's death. He had been unwell for some time but the profession has lost a great doctor and the BMA has lost one of its leading figures over the past 30 years.

‘Sandy's death is particularly poignant coming just before the annual representative meeting, which will not be the same without him. We send our sincere condolences to [his wife] Sylvia and his family’.

Sir Alexander’s upbringing as the son of a Church of Scotland minister had a profound impact on his life.

He said that growing up in the ‘public property’ of the manse gave rise to his sociability, while the experience of witnessing dreadful poverty and raising money for the local hospital fired a lifelong commitment to the NHS, which began when he was 16.

Despite growing up with a stammer, his eloquence was widely admired. He attended more than 40 BMA annual representative meetings, and his 1995 blistering attack upon the internal market - the ‘infernal bazaar’ - is still often cited.

If you would like to share any memories of Sir Alexander, please email mcarroll@bma.org.uk

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