The ABN Medal was established in 1996 and in the past has been awarded to such neurological giants as PK Thomas, John Walton, Ian McDonald and John Newsom-Davis, so why is it being presented to David Stevens – a jobbing neurologist from the West Country? The answer is simple, it is because he is a unique, multi-talented neurologist who has given outstanding service and made a number of seminal contributions to our Association.
David trained at the neurological feet of Bryan Matthews, Hugh Garland and Maurice Parsonage before taking up his appointment as consultant neurologist at the Gloucester Royal infirmary in 1973. There, as a single-handed neurologist, he provided a neurological service for a population of 522,000, he reported all the electroencephalograms and evoked response studies, carried out the electromyographic and nerve conduction studies for the county and he was also the consultant in charge of Ermin House, a unit for the younger physically handicapped. This heavy clinical workload was not carried out with two SHOs, a registrar and senior registrar, but with a single SHO who was on a medical rotation. His first registrar arrived in 1991 and he was joined by a second neurological colleague in 1994, 21 years after taking up his appointment.
David has an infectious enthusiasm for clinical neurology, he loves not only teasing out the diagnosis but also caring for his patients with chronic neurological disorders. He is a meticulous observer of the old school, but he is always ready and prepared to use the latest advances in neurological investigation. He is also I suspect the only neurologist who has a record of every outpatient, inpatient, ward consultation and domiciliary that he has seen.
Despite his exceptionally heavy clinical workload he maintained a continuing interest in teaching and research and he also took on numerous administrative activities at local, regional, national and international levels.
His MD thesis was on Huntington's disease, a disorder on which he has written extensively. He was a member of the World Federation of Neurology's research group on Huntington's disease for many years; he organised their Ninth International Conference and was their Secretary General for eight years. He has also written papers on a wide variety of topics, including the first description of CADASIL which he presented to this Association in 1976 and of interest is that he was a co-author of a paper with Carleton Gajdusec, a Nobel Prize winner. He has contributed chapters to a number of books, including five in the Handbook of Clinical Neurology as well as serving on the editorial boards of the British Journal of Hospital Medicine and the Journal of Neurological Sciences.
David has lectured widely throughout the world, from Kyoto to Vancouver as well as at the Royal Colleges of London and Edinburgh and in 1996 he was invited to give the Sydney Watson Smith lecture at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh . In 1997 he was invited to become the President of the Advanced Course in Neurology in Lille , and in 1998 he was awarded the Faculte de Medicine Medal for his services to postgraduate education in neurology in France.
David's administrative activities are too numerous to document but in our Association he was a member of the Services Committee during which time he was author or co-author of four important discussion documents. In 1997 he became treasurer of the Association and in the same year Chairman of the Finance Committee and a member of both the International and Local Organising Committees for the very successful 17 th World Congress of Neurology which was held in London in 2001.
This of course tells you little about David Stevens the person. Although now an old age pensioner, I can assure you that he is only old on the outside; he is still as articulate, artistic, imaginative, innovative and as enthusiastic as ever, particularly if there are gadgets involved, with an infectious and at times a wicked senses of humour, though on a rather sad note I have to report that he was turned down for a walk-on part in the sequel to the film Bridget Jones' Diary which was being filmed earlier this year in Lech, a part carried out by his wife with distinction and panache. Needless to say, Ute as given him considerable support over the years.
David now rightly takes his place with the other ABN medallists and he has demonstrated what can be achieved from a District General Hospital . He has done what he wanted to do, he has enjoyed it, and he has made the most of every opportunity. The ABN owes him much and has been fortunate to have him as such an active member but the people who have been most fortunate are his patients and those of us who have benefited from his warm friendship.
DC Thrush, September 2004