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Biographical entry Griffith, Iolo Pyrs (1933 - 2011)

BSc London 1956; MB BS 1959; MRCS LRCP 1959; PhD 1967; FRCS 1970.

20 November 1933
Llanaelhaearn, Gwynedd
27 June 2011
ENT surgeon


Iolo Griffith was a consultant ENT surgeon at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, who, as an otologist, co-established the South Wales Cochlear Implant Programme and, as a laryngologist, served the Welsh National Opera. He was greatly respected as a modest, private and diligent man, and admired for his hatred of dishonesty, drama or affectation.

He was born in Llanaelhaearn, in the foothills of Snowdonia, the third of three sons of John Pierce Griffith, a farmer, and Rebecca Ellen Griffith née Jones. Iolo Griffith decided that he wanted to become a doctor at an early age after falling off a wall at school and fracturing a leg. He was educated at Pwllheli Grammar School, which hitherto had not taught A-level biology. The North Walian characteristic of stubbornness prevailed and he won a state scholarship to read medicine at University College London. He qualified in 1959, having won the prize in anatomy. After house posts at University College Hospital (in surgery) and the Charing Cross Hospital (in medicine) and a year in casualty and orthopaedics at Barnet General Hospital, he decided to become a surgeon. In preparation for the primary FRCS, Iolo became a demonstrator and later an assistant lecturer in the department of physiology at St Bartholomew's Medical College, London (from 1962 to 1966).

Whilst at St Bartholomew's he developed testicular cancer and received linear accelerator treatment at the Royal Marsden at Sutton. During his recuperation he was encouraged by Robin McNab Jones to prepare a PhD thesis on the subject of 'Neurophysiology of taste'. Much of this work involved the use of the dissecting microscope, which naturally stimulated an interest in other uses of a microscope and a career in ENT. The thesis, which had been supervised by Norman Joels, was awarded in 1967.

Iolo Griffith started as a senior house officer at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, Golden Square, followed by a registrar post at the Westminster Hospital working with E H Miles Foxen and Christopher Holborow. In 1969 he became a senior registrar at the Middlesex Hospital, where he was influenced by Douglas Ranger, R A Williams and D Garfield Davies. Always anxious to serve his fellow countrymen, Iolo Griffith returned to Wales in 1972 as a senior lecturer and honorary NHS consultant to University College of Medicine and University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. Later in 1978 he changed to a maximum part-time contract, which he held until his retirement in 1998.

Among his many professional appointments was membership of the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (from 1989 to 2000) and the presidency of the section of otology of the Royal Society of Medicine (from 1997 to 1998).

In September 1962 he married a fellow North Walian Vera Parry, a physiotherapist trained at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, and later a magistrate. They had two children - Gwyn, who gained a doctorate in mycology and worked in research for 15 years before retraining as a probation officer and Ffion, who has had a successful career in human resources. Iolo and Vera Griffith had five grandchildren.

Iolo Griffith shared a love of gardening and music with his wife. He used his ENT expertise to help many musicians associated with the Welsh National Opera. Above all, he gave himself to his profession and his patients. He is remembered as a modest person who honoured everyone with deep respect, believing strongly in their right to be treated with dignity.

The last few years of his life, troubled by Alzheimer's, were hard, but his family and friends guarded his dignity and in the end he died peacefully on 27 June 2011 in his own home nursed by his loving wife. He was 77.

Vera Griffith
Neil Weir

The Royal College of Surgeons of England