June 21, 2024


My wife, Sylvia Gyde, who has died aged 88, was a medical researcher and NHS administrator. She worked in public health for a number of years, a role in which she consistently advocated for better addressing the root social, economic and environmental causes of ill health.

After a stint as a general practitioner, Sylvia began her research career investigating Crohn’s disease at Birmingham General Hospital. In the late 1980s, she served as medical director of the West Midlands mortality survey, a work which convinced her of the need for better medicine for public health. This also led to her appointment as Director of Public Health at North Birmingham Health Authority (1988-94).

Later she returned to the research field as medical director of clinical audit for the West Midlands (1994-96) and then medical director of the Evidence Supported Medicine Union (1996-97), looking at ways to improve patient care, until her retirement in the late 1990s.

Born in Llanidloes, mid-Wales, to Robert Clayton, a tannery manager, and Violet (née Marshall), a chartered secretary, Sylvia grew up with her family in the village of Combs. Suffolkwhere her early childhood was idyllic, until she went on scholarship to St Felix School in Southwold, where she was miserable and rebellious.

Nevertheless, she won a scholarship to study medicine at Somerville College, Oxford (1954-57). These were some of the happiest years of her life, where she sang in choirs and enjoyed a wide circle of friends that included playwright Alan Bennett.

Sylvia and I were married in 1961, after we had both completed our clinic
training at the London Hospital Medical College. Four children followed
in six years; and yet during that time she still found the energy to
set up a family planning clinic on a council estate in Woolwich, south-east London.

After we moved to Birmingham in 1972, Sylvia generally had three years
exercise before she began her six years of research into Crohn’s disease at Birmingham – work that produced an important series of papers on inflammatory bowel disease.

In retirement, Sylvia sang in various choirs, tended her roses at our bolthole in Besançon, Eastern France, and became an accomplished ceramicist. She suffered the gradual decline of her memory and physical health with patience and dignity, and remained a loving wife, devoted mother and grandmother, and above all, very much herself to the end.

She is survived by me, our children, Emily, Humphrey, Helen and Edward, and four grandchildren.



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