Lives of the fellows

Ronald Valentine Gibson

b.14 February 1920 d.13 January 1986
MRCS LRCP(1943) MA MB BChir Cantab(1947) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1965)

Ronald Valentine Gibson was born a Guernseynian, his father Ronald Gibson OBE, a medical practitioner, having settled there before the first world war. He was educated at Marlborough College, Pembroke College, Cambridge, and the Westminster Hospital. Arter the usual house jobs, he served as a captain in the RAMC with the South Staffordshire Regiment until the Battle of the Orme, and subsequently crossed the Rhine with a battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. He was among the first to enter Buchenwald concentration camp after its inmates were released, and later helped the civilian population in Kiel and Hamburg at the end of the war, taking part in the denazification programme.

After demobilization he specialized in the newly developing field of cardiology, and in 1953 was appointed senior registrar to the cardiac department at the Brompton Hospital, joining the staff two years later. At that time both cardiology and cardiac surgery were making rapid strides forward with the introduction of cardiac catheterization and open heart surgery. Ronald was intimately involved in all the new developments and in particular was closely associated with Russell Brock, later Lord Brock [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.62], and other surgeons in the new approach to congenital and valvular heart disease. In 1962, following the death of Paul Wood [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.456]he became physician in charge of the department. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1965.

Ronald was first and foremost a clinical cardiologist. He consulted in Bromley, Cornwall and Wessex, and by his efforts a large surgical practice was established at the Brompton Hospital. Like his predecessor, Paul Wood, he correlated the results of invasive examination with clinical signs, continuing a tradition which still distinguishes British cardiology. His skill in assessing patients for operation and in detecting potentially remediable complications of surgery were widely appreciated. In addition to running an active clinical department at the Brompton, he had a large international practice and was among the first to deal with the huge influx of patients with heart disease from the Middle East in the 1960s. It was from him that many of his younger colleagues learned the art of treating patients whose cultural and religious backgrounds were so profoundly different from their own. In spite of this workload, he punctiliously maintained his clinical work and teaching at the Brompton.

Ronald was no academic and by today’s inflated standards his output of published work was small. In his early years he wrote seminal papers on tricuspid regurgitation and constrictive pericarditis, followed later by a number of case reports. He continued to maintain an interest in new technology and was rapidly able to assimilate echocardiography into his practice. Those who never came directly into contact with him were unaware of his flair as a clinical teacher, for which he was widely and affectionately remembered by many who later specialized in cardiology, both in this country and in other parts of the world.

His style of leadership of the cardiac department was never forceful and in these days of strategic planning might have been considered indecisive. But when judged by results it is clear that under his management the department prospered and, by the time of his retirement was well placed to merge with the National Heart Hospital in the new cardiothoracic centre.

Ronald was not an easy person to know and many meeting him for the first time would find his manner withdrawn. He did indeed find it difficult to relate to many professional colleagues, but to his junior staff he was a friend, teacher and loyal supporter in their later careers. He had few interests outside his profession and his family, and his final illness darkened the end of his career, denying him the opportunity to widen his activities after retirement.

He married Thelma Pauline Gibson in 1945 and they had two sons and three daughters. He had a son and a daughter from his second marriage.

DG Gibson

[, 1986,292,773; Lancet, 1986,1,812; The Times, 20 Jan 1986]

(Volume VIII, page 183)

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