General Internal Medicine
Designatory Letters: 
MB Cape Town 1948, MD Cape Town 1957, PhD Cape Town 1968, FRCPLond 1971, FRCP Edin 1983, FRCPIrel 1987, FACP 1987, PRCPLond 1983-1989, FRACP 1989

(Contributed by Alasdair Geddes)

When Raymond (Bill) Hoffenberg was appointed to the William Withering Chair of Medicine in Birmingham in 1972 he was unknown to the majority of the medical profession in that city, having relatively recently arrived in the UK from South Africa. He was immediately faced with a major challenge. The number of entrants to the Medical School had doubled in 1979 but little provision had been made for their clinical training. Bill visited the (then) non-teaching hospitals in Birmingham to persuade them (successfully as it turned out) to participate in the clinical training of undergraduates. No one was better fitted for the task.

Bill was born in South Africa in 1923. He completed his medical education at the Medical School of the University of Cape Town - then strongly influenced by the Edinburgh Medical School - after a break in his studies as a soldier in North Africa and Italy in World War Two. He became a senior lecturer in medicine in Cape Town specialising in endocrinology.

He had a strong social conscience and became a member of the South African Liberal Party, which was dedicated to opposing apartheid and all that it stood for. He and his wife, Margaret, became leaders in the anti-apartheid movement and in 1967 were targeted as undesirables by the Government. His movement was restricted by a banning order as was contact with like-minded individuals. It became impossible for Bill to continue working in South Africa and, in 1968, he and Margaret left Africa for England where he had been appointed to a post at the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill in London. They were seen off at Cape Town airport by 2000 anti-apartheid supporters.

Bill Hoffenberg’s time in Birmingham (1972-1985) was one of expansion of the Medical School and the establishment of new Chairs in a number of departments, especially in clinical areas such as cardiology and neurology. His own speciality, endocrinology, became internationally acclaimed, especially for research into thyroid diseases.

In 1983, having previously been Senior Censor, he was elected President of the Royal College of Physicians of London, a position he held for six years. His robust views occasionally brought him into conflict with the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

From 1985 to 1993 Bill Hoffenberg was President of Wolfson College, Oxford, another immensely successful appointment. When he retired in 1993 he and Margaret (who died in 2005) went to Australia to join their sons and Bill became Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Queensland for two years. He wrote and corresponded on ethical matters right up until his death.

Bill Hoffenberg was a truly larger than life individual - large in stature, in intellect, in compassion and in personality. He was also humble, an excellent physician and eminently approachable.