I can’t quite believe that I am writing a tribute to Jo. She was a good friend for over 30 years and, of course, a long standing member of the MJA.
Jo studied pharmacy at Manchester and after a brief spell in retail joined the Pharmaceutical Journal in 1976. Jo was an extremely good editor and a great journalist. Her accuracy and attention to detail were legendary. I know many of you who worked with Jo came to respect her ‘red pen’.
Jo worked on the clinical side of the PJ – the politics of pharmacy were never her thing and the reason she never wanted to be the editor. Jo had a great interest in drugs, how they worked and how well they worked. She maintained that interest long after she stopped working. I imagine her consultants at the Marsden came to respect her knowledge and no doubt insightful questions.
Jo may have earned a healthy respect from her colleagues, but when it came to PR agencies, respect turned to trepidation. I heard many tales from PR people who dreaded having to make the press release follow-up call. Unfortunately, this usually meant putting the most junior person in to bat – not a good idea.
Jo left the PJ in 2000 after nearly 25 years, her service to pharmacy recognised by a Royal Pharmaceutical Society Fellowship. As a freelance Jo was never short of work. As an editor my problem was getting her to take anything on. It had to be interesting and worthwhile – a high bar in the world of freelance medical writing.
I first came across Jo when I was on the MIMS Index in the early eighties and we used to meet at the many medical press conferences and drug launches. I was new to the game and immediately recognised Jo as someone who knew her stuff. We also went on quite a few press trips, which were a lot of fun and prompt many fond memories.
Outside of work Jo had a passion for music, art and the theatre – mainly Guys and Dolls! She also loved tennis, both playing and watching. We first started playing back in the eighties, and although neither of us were very good, her ‘Sue Barker’ forehand was something to behold.
Jo had many friends and will be greatly missed. Please share your memories and thoughts below so we can all enjoy them and remember the good times.
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As someone who, like Jo, ventured into medical journalism in 1976, I went to many press conferences with her when we were both learning our trade. Typically, she would sit near the back and wait until nearly everyone had asked their questions and then say, with characteristic modesty: “I may have missed it, but ….”. Of course, she hadn’t “missed it”. Far from it, she had noticed a hole in the story which the rest of us had missed. I know that pharmaceutical executives came to dread the “Jo Lumb” question.
Jo had a superb understanding of her readers and I used to marvel that she could find the “the pharmacy angle” in the most unlikely stories.
In recent years, when she was being treated for myeloma (she hated terms like fighting or battling), we laughed together that the Royal Marsden can never have had a patient who took her medicines so accurately. On a large chart, she assiduously recorded each of the many drugs she was taking in ever more complicated regimens – ticking them off as she took them, on time, every day. She was a true professional, always good company, and a great friend.
I, too, met Jo in 1976. She has been around for about six months more than me but she was unfailingly helpful as I floundered in the shallows. As Jenny points out it was a winning combination of self-deprecation and attention to detail that floored her interviewees and colleagues. But I found being put straight by Jo was not a humiliating experience because it was done with such charm.
When I became editor of The PJ in 2001, after Doug Simpson, Jo had left to freelance about a year before. My first year was quite challenging but the one thing I did not have to worry about was the standards of accuracy in the copy. The journalists had been so well trained; Jo’s legacy can be seen daily on PJ online and elsewhere in the medical press.
I was always a little intimidated by Jo until breakfast one morning at the Georges V hotel in Paris in 1996. We were there for the launch of pantoprazole. I suspect we both went down very early to avoid having to eat with others (I learned later that Jo didn’t really do “chat” in the mornings). It wasn’t just the bacon that was grilled that morning. But I survived and we became firm friends and started meeting more often. In the early 2000s after she joined the freelance world we worked together producing journal supplements, writing training courses and websites. She was a joy to work with (save for the times when a misplaced comma would bring a withering tone of disappointment down the telephone line). She could switch rapidly from being very serious and professional to being highly mischievous and fun. I never saw the ‘Sue Barker forehand’ but her hula-hooping at Tim’s 40th birthday party is imprinted on my mind!
I am very sorry to hear about Jo’s death. She was like a good Verdecchio: dry and crisp, but with a hint of honey if you have the taste to appreciate it. Life is so bleak when you lose someone close you. My thoughts are with Jo’s family and everyone who cared for her.
Jo was my first boss when I took the leap into pharmacy journalism. She commanded huge respect in The Pharmaceutical Journal offices – she was concerned with the important stuff – how medicines work, their effect on patients. Her red (sometimes green) pen was legendary – woe betide anyone who filed sloppy copy. We soon learnt. Which was just as well, because our paths at the PJ crossed for only 10 months. Olivia Timbs hits the nail on the head – I was ‘put right’ by Jo on many occasions. But her chiding never humiliated, just inspired a desire to get it right first time. Over the next 16 years we became friends and would regularly meet for lunch, often at the Museum of Garden History café – a lovely spot next to Lambeth Palace. She would quiz me about the goings on at The Journal. I invariably said more than I intended to. But it didn’t matter. Jo was always discreet. And loyal. I will miss Jo hugely.