Obituary – William Paaske (12.6.1948 – 24.12.2016)

Professor Paaske, William to his friends, died on Christmas Eve 2016 at the age of 68. He was born on 12/6/48 in Nikebing Falster, Denmark and graduated from the University of Copenhagen in 1974. His interest in vascular medicine began when he worked at the Rockefeller Institute teaching students about blood flow and blood vessels and the related physiology which led to a research project using radioactive tracers to investigate the circulation. He then of course wrote papers on this topic which were published and  this in turn led to him being given a student research scholarship by the University of Copenhagen. During this fellowship he spent some time in the laboratory and did research on the control of the peripheral circulation and the transfer of molecules across capillary membranes.

At this stage he entered surgical training in order to become a vascular surgeon. In typical William Paaske style he said when he was once asked about his career ‘it seemed to me that the life of a vascular surgeon could not be altogether boring’.

Throughout his career he was keen to impart his knowledge to others and had a wide interest in other fields ensuring that he was not the often seen ‘boring doctor who knew nothing about anything except medicine’. He was in fact a man of great intellect and had a wide knowledge of many subjects. His colleagues  often enjoyed discussions with William about a number of different subjects usually in comfortable surroundings accompanied by a nice glass of wine. He had a very logical mind and was quite happy to discuss  almost any topic for many hours. His arguments were always logical and often ended with agreement. His interests extended from the classics to modern literature and philosophy which no doubt helped his attitude towards any discussion which usually led to  a reasoned and rational conclusion.

Apart from this aspect of his personality he was always interested in promoting vascular surgery and trying to make it a specialty across Europe. This led him to becoming  involved from the very beginning in the  creation of a European system of training, assessment and continuing education which  eventually led to widely accepted examinations in vascular surgery recognised across Europe. He became President of the Division of Vascular Surgery at the European Board of Vascular Surgery which continues to be important and successful to this very day.

When the European Society of Vascular Surgery was founded he was an early enthusiast and supporter. In the Council of the European Society of Vascular Surgery his many skills were appreciated. His logical mind and the ability to discuss matters without emotion helped in decision making often allowing a successful conclusion to our discussions. He was always prepared to look to the future and from the very start his ambition was to achieve a paperless society. When the internet was first starting and computers became important, he argued that we should get involved in websites, computing and all things that are now taken as part of everyday life.  Some members of the council were against pursuing this process but William with his usual skills argued strongly for it and that is why the ESVS was one of the first organisations to get involved in the worldwide web and computing activities. He worked hard on the council of the ESVS and became President from 2000-2001.

Throughout his extensive research  carer and surgical practice he managed to find the time to pursue his other interests and to travel to different countries and absorb their culture. He was certainly well travelled and had a large number of international friends who he saw regularly. One of his favourite places to discuss  topics would be in a pleasant room where a glass of fine wine was available and he was able  to smoke a large cigar or a pipe which he used to enjoy.

A few years before his death he learnt that he had a medical problem which could lead to his death at any time but he approached this in his usual philosophical manner and simply carried on doing what he did best.

He was a man who enjoyed life, had a vast knowledge of many things outside medicine, an intellect which allowed him to discuss a topic endlessly without rancour and usually came to the right conclusion. He is missed by his friends but his contributions to vascular surgery will remain to remind everyone of his commitment to this area of medicine.

Peter Bell

Giorgio Biasi

José Fernandes e Fernandes

Christos Liapis