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Biographical entry Cook, James Anthony (1958 - 2004)

MRCS and FRCS 1987; BA Cambridge 1979; MB BChir 1982; MD Liverpool 2002; LRCP 1987.

21 March 1958
9 December 2004
ENT surgeon


James Anthony Cook ('Jim') was a consultant ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon in Leicester from 1994 until his early death at the end of 2004. He pioneered the development of the 'balance centre' at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, the first in the United Kingdom for the investigation and management of individuals with a variety of disorders of balance.

He was born on 21 March 1958, the son of James and Robina Cook. His father was a manager of a branch of the Ford Motor Company. Jim was educated at Westcliffe High School, where he had a distinguished academic record, passing 10 'O' levels, including Russian. In 1976 he entered Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, to study natural sciences and three years later obtained his BA with honours in anatomy. His clinical studies were undertaken at Middlesex Hospital.

He did his house officer posts at Middlesex Hospital and at Orsett Hospital. After completing a senior house officer post in the casualty department of Middlesex Hospital, he decided to specialise in ear, nose and throat surgery and went to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for the first real taste of his chosen specialty. Here he was tutored by I S Young and Richard Sellick, the latter having previously established the East Anglian Regional Audiology Centre. He then moved to a senior house officer rotation in the Trent region, which combined neurosurgery in Nottingham with general surgical experience in Leicester. In 1984 he started higher surgical training in ENT at Whipps Cross and St Bartholomew's hospitals, going on to be a senior registrar in otolaryngology at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Walton and Alder Hey hospitals.

In 1987, when he was a registrar in London, James Cook married Susan Reid, a state registered nurse. They had two sons: Christopher James, born in 1989, a civil engineering student at Plymouth University, and Oliver Anthony, born on 16 October 1992.

Jim spent 1993 working with Paul Fagan as an (unpaid) fellow in neuro-otology and base of skull surgery in Sydney, New South Wales, taking his wife and two young children with him. The family lived in a flat belonging to an old people's home, where he was on-call for the residents. Finances were eked out by doing locums for the local doctors when they were on vacation, who also allowed the Cook family to use their holiday homes.

Over the years in training and in his consultant years he published widely on the subjects of Ménière's disease, tinnitus and vertigo.

Appointed to a consultant post in Leicester in 1994, he set up a highly successful balance centre, conceived at a conference he attended in San Diego, USA, where he learned of exercises which were given to astronauts who had severe dizziness on returning to earth. A computerised dynamic 'posturograph' with harness and tilting platform was used to investigate and rehabilitate patients, in combination with eye exercises to re-educate the brain. The centre received much coverage in the local and national press, with articles emphasising the benefits to patients with Ménière's disease, especially those who developed balance problems after sports head injuries. The official opening, in 1999, was performed by the manager of Leicester City Football Club, Martin O'Neill, supported by the coach of Leicester Tigers Rugby Club and former international player, Dean Richards. The centre is a lasting legacy and a tribute to Jim Cook's industry and enthusiasm.

As a result of this work, Jim was much in demand as a conference speaker at home and overseas, particularly in the USA. He was a member of the Ménière's Society.

Jim was a good pianist and enjoyed all forms of music. He was happy to relax by travelling abroad with his family on holiday, especially to Tenerife, where his parents had retired.

James Anthony Cook died suddenly on 9 December 2004 and was survived by his wife, Susan, and their two sons. Both his parents predeceased him.

N Alan Green
Neil Weir

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Susan Cook; RCS letter to Registrar, Medical Board of New South Wales; Leicester Mercury July 1999; Daily Mail 12 October 1999; Daily Express 30 May 2000; The Times 13 February 2002].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England