Tribute to Jean-Pierre Benhamou


Jean-Pierre BenhamouJean-Pierre Benhamou died on September 17th, 2008 at the age of 81. He was born in Algiers where his father was Professor of Medicine in the Faculty. Resident in Paris hospitals in 1952, he obtains a Science degree in 1953. Under the direction of René Fauvert, he leads at the same time research activities at the National Institute of Hygiene (the precursor of the INSERM), and a hospital and academic career in Hospital Beaujon In 1974 he succeeded Professor René Fauvert as Chief of Hepatology of the Hospital Beaujon. He retired in 1996. From 1967 to 1970, he is Secretary of EASL, and its President in 1993, when he organizes the annual conference in Paris. He is secretary of the EASL from 1975 to 1979. He supports Journal of Hepatology as Editor from 1990 to 1994. He received many prestigious international awards.

Early in his career, Jean-Pierre Benhamou is kin to apply the methods and scientific reasoning to medicine, and to have simultaneously a clinical and bench activity. He soon realizes that this project can be applied to Hepatology, a discipline that is not yet individualized. The areas of Hepatology of particular interest to him are portal hypertension, drugs and the liver, and liver failure. In terms of portal hypertension, the team that he runs contributes to demonstrate the risk of the porto-caval anastomosis surgery (widely used at that time) and the possibility for pharmacological treatment with beta -blockers (at a time when the idea of drug treatment had not been considered). In terms of drug induced liver disease, his team has contributed to the description of the hepato-toxicity of reactive metabolites of drugs and the description of several drug toxicities. In terms of severe hepatocellular insufficiency, his team has contributed to the description of the syndrome and the introduction of liver transplantation in treatment. The group he founded directed also has a wide range of scientific interest to which important contributions are made: bile secretion, secretion of liver proteins, severe alcoholic hepatitis, viral hepatitis, liver transplantation and vascular liver disease. This amazing scientific production reflects extensive and deep knowledge of the liver and its diseases, rigor and clarity in the approach of scientific issues, and an unparalleled talent as mentor to his staff.

Jean-Pierre Benhamou was endowed with a unique power of attraction on young scientists, doctors and students. Seduction was based among others, on a huge medical and general culture, a deep respect for the opinion of his colleagues and collaborators, a boundless tolerance for people (but not all ideas), a perfect stability of mood and, above all, a wonderful sense of humor. Many of his students have spread and developed active groups in France, Belgium, Switzerland, as well as in non-Francophone countries, in constantly referring to him as their mentor, unfailingly accompanied by his advice and friendship. A highest achievement of Jean-Pierre Benhamou is probably his teaching. His teaching is known and praised everywhere, running from the internship conferences to invited lectures to international forums in the most prestigious arenas, through post-graduate teaching at smallest hospitals, weekly rounds to the service wards, the "staff" on Friday at 11.30, specific courses to the faculty and its annual teaching Hepatology day. The impression of ease and play given by its interventions actually hides an intense work on content and form of his talks. No words, no joke happens by chance. Each serves the function of keeping the attention and providing a clear message that can be stored longer. The written educational work is to the extent of the talks. It is condensed in a book "Diseases of the Liver and Biliary Tract (Flammarion Médecine-Sciences), the reference universally known for its clarity, conciseness and comprehensiveness. Some physicians consider this book the source of their choice for Hepatology. The five runs and five editions between 1972 and 2007 show in part its success, but also the respect of the author to its readers in updating their knowledge. Between 1991 and 2007, there will be three editions of the "Textbook of Hepatology", the first European treaty whom he is one of the main editors.

For 40 years, the discipline of Hepatology has benefited from Jean-Pierre Benhamou as a herald and an exceptional and recognized guide, even adored. He liked to quote the words of Michelet: "Teaching is a friendship." Countless doctors are deeply grateful to him for this most perceptible friendship.

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