Professor Derek Pheby

In Memory of Professor Derek Pheby

We are very sorry to have to report the death of Professor Derek Pheby.

Derek was a longstanding friend, colleague and Patron of the MEA.

He was also one of the most kind, modest and caring doctors that I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

Derek was passionate about helping people with ME through both his research work and on a very personal basis.

And in recognition of his outstanding contribution to so many different aspects of ME, especially his involvement with research into people with severe ME, Derek was made a Patron of the MEA in 2020

Professor Derek Pheby
Professor Derek Pheby

After qualifying as a doctor at St Thomas's Hospital in London, Derek started his professional life as a GP in the village of Coxwold on the North Yorkshire Moors.

He then moved on to specialise in cancer epidemiology and public health at the University of Bristol and became the Director of the South West of England Regional Cancer Directory.

Derek also became increasingly involved in ME/CFS as a result of a family member developing the disease.

Over the past thirty years I have worked with Derek on various initiatives including the National Task Force on ME, the ME/CFS Observatory (where he was project co-ordinator), the CMO Working Group Report on ME/CFS and the MRC Expert Group on ME/CFS.

Derek played a leading role in helping to set up a disease register on ME/CFS for research purposes and planning the development of the ME Biobank – where he became a key member of the Steering Group.

He was also the scientific co-ordinator of Euromene – the European research group on ME/CFS.

Outside medicine Derek had a wide range interests including poetry and politics and I am grateful to his son John for providing us with details of some of his most recent activities:

“However acclaimed he rightly became in his professional capacity, what he really wanted was to be noted for his beautiful poetry. He was so happy that we finally published his collected poems, ‘Being and Doing and Other Poems’ a little over 2 years ago. He had emulated his hero – and indeed it was ‘The Life and Works of John Keats’ that he selected as his specialist subject when he appeared on BBC’s Mastermind”.

“Our closeness and friendship really blossomed through our co-authoring, over many years, of ‘Umwelt’, a 600 page meditation on pain, consciousness and the medieval female mystics. He brought such rigour and insight to the project and it would not have existed in any way without him. At the time of his death we were working on one final extensive chapter, or coda, that would have explored the implications of the pandemic for our thesis. I will now finish that chapter alone, but the entire project now is about paying tribute to my fantastic dad.

“As soon as the invasion of Ukraine commenced, and mindful that both my Dad and I have had extensive connections with Central Europe, we collaborated on a project which would ultimately exhibit paintings by children from one particular Ukrainian school. This exhibition commenced in the Salisbury Guildhall and went on to take up residence in a gallery, a cafe, a church, and a school in Wiltshire who went on to forge their own connections with the Ukrainian school. My Dad wrote poems about every single painting and child, and a book including all his poems and all the paintings is on sale at a local children’s bookshop (I can send a digital copy to anyone who is interested). My Dad worked so hard on this throughout this year, thereby raising money for Ukrainian children’s charities. This was typical kind and hard work from a wonderful and loving man, husband, dad and grandpa.

“Which resulted in this reply:
“Hi, John. Accept my sincere condolences…All my prayers and prayers our children are with your father. He actually was a great man who did a lot to Ukraine and Ukrainians in these dark times. His poetry are wonderful, he helped children believe in the miracle – they helped with their drawings and brought the victory closer.””

John Pheby

Derek is survived by his wife Anita, three children and three grandchildren

He will be sadly missed by all his professional colleagues – and we send our condolences to Derek’s family.

More information

Dr Charles Shepherd,
Trustee and
Hon. Medical Adviser
to the ME Association.
Member of the 2018-2021 NICE Guideline Committee.
Member of the 2002 Independent Working Group on ME/CFS.

Dr Charles Shepherd
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