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Obituary: former IBMS President Eric James Cloke

Eric James Cloke, known by all as “Jim”, was the President of the Institute from 1988 to 1991. 

At that time, he was only the fifth President to be from the profession, with the post having been previously held by eminent pathologists. Jim joined the profession in 1953 as a student medical laboratory technician under the grading structure of the IMLT, as the Institute was then. He progressed through the Intermediate and Final examinations and rose to the grade of Principal Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer at the pathology laboratory in Chelmsford.

Jim joined the profession at a time of expansion both in the range of tests available and in staffing levels and developed a keen sense of vision of the future role of biomedical scientists and very much embraced the development of management as a distinct discipline. Indeed, his final professional role was as a Senior Lecturer in management at the Anglia Ruskin University. His interest in service management also lead him to have a prominent role in trade union representation of the profession through ASTMS, before it was assimilated into the current Unite trade union. Throughout his involvement with the Institute, Jim had a passion for moving things forward. He was a consummate politician and had an innate sense of when (and when not) to take risks. Skills he put to good us in chairing for some years the National MLSO Advisory Committee, which he was key
in developing. This committee closely monitored the appointment of principal posts and pathology management issues in the NHS. Doubtless this was in part responsible for his popularity with the membership and Jim recorded the highest number of votes when re-elected as a national Council Member in 1985.

Jim was first elected to Council in 1976 and became a member of the Executive Committee in 1984 and served continuously until stepping down from Council after his term of Past President in 1994. He also chaired the Institutes Medical Laboratory Management Committee. In August 1986 E. J. Cloke was elected President Elect to serve as President from 1988, and was the President who appointed the then new Chief Executive - Alan Potter. Jim was made Vice President in 1995.

The hand of Jim Cloke can be traced through many of the innovations and changes and that now shape the Institute, although perhaps his most visible contribution when President must have been the unveiling of the Institute logo, which has now become a respected and instantly recognisable image of the profession. In his letter to the membership in June 1990 Jim said: “The IMLS has long been established as the voice of medical laboratory scientists. With the changing pace and demands of healthcare and its sciences, however the need now is not only to consolidate that position but to sound the voice more loudly. This is vital not only to maintain credibility but also to ensure a clear dynamic image that matches new demands and competitive elements. The design fuses the DNA double helix with the symbol of the staff and snake of Aesculapius”. As a man, Jim possessed a dry wit with a gentle sense of humour that surfaced often. He was also steadfast when faced with adversity. Like others before him, Jim Cloke made a difference to the profession that he chose. He will be remembered.

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