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Obituary: Dr John Adams

Dr John Adams, who has died aged 63 after a long illness, was one of the outstanding healthcare academics of his generation. Former colleague and friend David Lewin pays tribute to one of nursing's most highly respected and esteemed figures.

Dr John Adams, who has died aged 63 after a long illness, was one of the outstanding healthcare academics of his generation. Former colleague and friend David Lewin pays tribute to one of nursing's most highly respected and esteemed figures


John Stephen Adams,
11 November 1952 – 14 October 2016.

A distinguished nurse, teacher, researcher and historian, John was educated at Aylesbury Grammar School and graduated from Selwyn College, Cambridge, with a degree in theological and religious studies.

John started his nurse training in 1976 at St George’s Hospital in London, on the two-year experimental state registered nurse (SRN) course for graduates. 

Known affectionately as ‘Mr Adams’ by the school of nursing, ward staff and students alike, he was always cheerful, charming and diligent, with a dry wit that endeared him to everyone.  

Life of scholarship

From his first job caring for older people, John had a wonderful rapport with his patients. His professionalism, knowledge of their conditions, excellent care and interpersonal skills made them feel secure in his hands. These qualities remained with John throughout his career.

Having consolidated his clinical experience in intensive care and gerontological nursing in several London hospitals, John established programmes of reminiscence therapy with older people and participated in the movement to link them with academic research into oral and community history.

Moving into nurse education in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, it soon became evident that this quiet, thoughtful, unassuming young man was resolutely committed to a life of scholarship and learning.  

His subsequent qualifications included a BSc in health studies, an MPhil in social gerontology, an MA in local history, a post-graduate certificate in education, a diploma in the history of medicine and a PhD in the history of psychiatric care. 

Esteemed colleague 

He was also entirely at home with law, philosophy, literature and the British choral tradition of cathedral and chapel music.

John was the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and presented over 50 conference papers. He was also reviewer for academic journals, a member of the Nursing Standard evidence and practice advisory panel, an editorial board member for several other journals, founding editor of the Bulletin of the UK Association for the History of Nursing, and an external university examiner.

A highly-respected and esteemed colleague, John was awarded two accolades by the faculty of nursing and midwifery at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland: a fellowship for his outstanding work across nursing and midwifery and its impact on health and society, and honorary research status in recognition of his teaching, practice and research linked specifically to the work of the faculty.

As a senior lecturer in the school of nursing and midwifery at Anglia Ruskin University, he helped clinical staff from local NHS trusts publish their work, as well as teaching research methods, health care, law and ethics and quality issues, and the history of health and social care. 

Inspiring 

Following his retirement, he continued his teaching, research and research supervision on a part-time basis until recently.

John had immense influence in the way he inspired and enlightened students and colleagues with his encyclopaedic knowledge, all expressed through his scholarship and personal example.  

He was a highly gifted educator, networker and communicator, and much admired for his honesty, integrity, courtesy and generosity of spirit. He never lost his wit and remained a fine raconteur and public speaker, performing, almost always, without a prompt in his hand.

John left a rich legacy in terms of his thoughts, ideas, values and principles, and we draw comfort from the memory of a loyal friend and colleague whose life enriched us all.

His wife was at his bedside when he died in a local hospice.


David Lewin was John’s personal tutor at St George’s Hospital, London, and worked extensively with him as head of research and quality at Homerton College Cambridge school of health studies and as a research officer at Anglia Ruskin University

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