Start year of presidency: 1999
End year of presidency: 2000
Richard Cooke was acting President of the College for eight months following the tragic death of Professor David Baum, having previously been Vice-President with special responsibility for science and research, and chairman of the Academic Board. He was particularly interested in developing College policies based on evidence-based medicine.
He qualified in medicine at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School, London in 1971 after a year in Pakistan and India on a Nuffield Travelling Scholarship in Tropical Medicine. After early jobs in London at the Hammersmith and Hospital for Sick Children, he worked for his MD at Oxford, researching neonatal cerebral blood flow. Following two years as a staff paediatrician in paediatric cardiology at Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, he returned to Liverpool in 1980 to take up a senior lectureship in neonatal medicine. He began to develop the neonatal intensive care service from small beginnings which grew to being the largest in the UK. In 1988 he was appointed to the first chair in neonatal medicine, and later to head of the Department of Child Health in Liverpool, which role he filled until 2001.
Early research interests included the aetiology and prevention of cranial haemorrhage in the preterm, and the development of real-time ultrasound for the diagnosis of brain damage in the newborn infant. Later interests included the use of routinely collected data in neonatal epidemiology, long-term follow-up and school performance in those born preterm. Poor post-neonatal head growth was identified as being strongly associated with poorer developmental outcome and found to relate to early nutrition. Subsequently, this has been shown to be correctible by better early feeding methods.
Professor Cooke was also President of the Paediatric Research Society, the Neonatal Society and the British Association for Perinatal Medicine. Between 2005 and retirement he was Director of Studies for the Final Year MBBS, Liverpool.
Following retirement in 2012, apart from continuing association with several clinical trials, he has worked for and been awarded an MA in medieval studies and subsequently worked for a PhD.