Many of Scotland’s rural GPs will have benefited from the wonderful teaching skills of Dr Mark Bloch, who died on Saturday 18th October, 2014. A passionate provider of prehospital care in his home town of Aberdeen, he also helped to encourage and enthuse many participants of BASICS Scotland‘s prehospital care courses. A respected teacher, clinician and strategist, Mark was involved in a wealth of activities; he was a man in demand and yet had the knack of remaining approachable, fun and personable.
My principal memory of Mark is lying with him in a muddy ditch during a practice extrication of a casualty, whilst stabilising the casualty’s cervical spine during a PHECC Course at Douneside, Aberdeenshire. He had the credibility of someone who had lain in many muddy ditches ‘for real’, with the sorts of tips and tricks to ensure optimum casualty care that only comes with experience. Sometimes experts can seem remote, but Mark had an ability to become an engaging mentor during teaching. It was clear that instructing was a role that Mark loved. That softly-spoken Zimbabwean voice, which somehow seemed incongruent to his level of clinical acumen, combined well with his practical thinking: I can easily imagine the empathy and sensitivity that this would bring to a real-life prehospital incident.
Mark had seen lots, from young children involved in serious road accidents, to incidents where, perhaps frustratingly, the focus of care turns away from ABCDE and more towards ensuring comfort and dignity. His determination to provide quality prehospital care is something that many of us can associate with; along with the underlying concern that switching off-call for a night might lead to regret the next day, and yet striving for some level of work-life balance.
Mark progressed from Milton High School in Zimbabwe to do medicine at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. After training, he had a consultant post at the Groote Schur Hospital before moving over to a consultant post at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. It was during this time that he developed his interest in simulation training and the non-technical skills now referred to as ‘team resource management’. This interest has continued since his move to Aberdeen in 2005.
Aside from Mark’s BASICS Scotland activity, his work showed he was at the top of his game: Consultant Anaesthetist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, and the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital; Clinical Lead for Bond Helicopters and Jigsaw SARH; Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Aberdeen University; and active member of the Grampian Immediate Care Scheme, which also saw the recent introduction of the prehospital response car based at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. In 2012 Mark was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contribution to emergency care in Scotland.
The immediate sense of loss felt by Mark’s confrères in BASICS Scotland – and the wider circles of prehospital and emergency medicine – is clear to see by the number of tributes on Facebook and Twitter. There will be many others who have shared a muddy ditch with Mark, and benefited from his enthusiasm for prehospital care. We are so sorry to see that enthusiasm cut so tragically short.
Our thoughts are with his family at this time.