Lives of the fellows

Oliver Duncan Fisher

b.26 January 1921 d.3 October 1997
MRCS LRCP(1943) DCH(1947) MB BS Lond(1948) MRCP(1949) MD(1951) FRCP( 1972)

Oliver Fisher was born in Dover where both his father and grandfather were general practitioners. He was educated at Haileybury College and King’s College Hospital Medical School. He served in the Royal Navy from 1944 to 1946 and saw service in the Far East as a medical officer on HMS Whelp whose first lieutenant was Philip Mountbatten. After his naval service he returned to King’s where he worked as a house physician and registrar in the children’s department under Sir Wilfrid Sheldon [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.531 ]. He obtained his membership of the College in 1949 and moved to Great Ormond Street where he spent two years as house physician and senior registrar before moving to a lectureship at Queen’s University, Belfast. In 1956 he was appointed as the first consultant paediatrician to the Medway and Gravesend Hospitals, a post which he held until his retirement in 1982. In 1949 he married Sheila Penny; they had two sons, David and Jeremy, and a daughter, Amanda.

Oliver was a distinguished member of the first generation of NHS consultants who established paediatrics as a specialty in district general hospitals, usually working in single-handed posts with few junior staff. He started with two house officers who had amongst their duties the giving of anaesthesia to patients undergoing electro-convulsive therapy. Oliver, with characteristic vigour, put an end to this unorthodox arrangement and set about centralizing in-patient services for children, firstly in St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Rochester, and later at All Saints’ Hospital, Chatham. With the help of Eric Stroud he established a rotating registrar post between Chatham and King’s, a popular and successful rotation which, over nearly thirty years, launched many young doctors on successful careers in paediatrics, both in the United Kingdom and overseas; he and Michael Joseph were also amongst the first to establish out-patient clinics run by visiting paediatric cardiologists in district hospitals. Oliver was first and foremost a superb clinician with a tremendous capacity for hard work in circumstances that were often difficult, but in addition he always maintained a vigorous, intellectual approach to his work and had a talent for original thought and innovation which he sustained throughout his career. He published over two dozen papers on a wide variety of paediatric topics, including one of the first reports of the successful treatment of the Blackfan-Diamond syndrome with Cortisone. Within paediatrics his chief interest lay in neonatal medicine and this, coupled with his energy and drive, led to the opening, in 1982, of the Oliver Fisher Special Care Baby Unit, which has grown to be one of the busiest neonatal intensive care units in the country.

He was a keen sportsman who played rugby for Haileybury and King’s and also excelled at squash - a game which he played until his retirement with great enthusiasm. His great passion, however, was sailing and the sadness of his death in a boating accident is somewhat lessened by the knowledge that he died in ‘active service’ doing what he loved so much.

T M Little

(Volume X, page 140)

<< Back to List