Lives of the fellows

Leslie Alan Hawkins

b.13 July 1909 d.4 August 1985
BChir Cantab(1934) MRCS LRCP(1934) DCH(1935) MB(1935) MRCP(1943) FRCP(1970)

Leslie Alan Hawkins died in the Doncaster Royal Infirmary, the hospital where he had been a consultant paediatrician for 27 years. At the time of his birth the family lived in Calcutta, India, but they returned to England when Leslie was five years old. The new family home was at Cowslip Green, some 10 miles from Bristol, and Leslie went to a preparatory school at Weston-super-Mare. From there he went to Clifton College where he became head of his house. He received his medical education at Cambridge, and his clinical studies were undertaken at the London Hospital. Whilst at Cambridge he distinguished himself by obtaining first class honours in both Parts I and II of the natural sciences tripos (physiology). At that time Leslie came under the influence of ‘Joe’ Barcroft, and he frequently spoke in later years of his teaching and how it had shaped and sharpened his own approach to medicine. On qualification he joined the house staff at the London Hospital. At the outbreak of war he was asked, in view of his organizing experience as receiving room officer at the London Hospital, to join the Emergency Medical Service. He served as a sector hospital officer until 1946, being responsible for the allocation and utilization of hospital beds for a large area of southern England.

In 1940 he married Phyllis, the daughter of Harry Roberts, a general practitioner and industrial medical officer who practised in Ayrshire. They had met at the London Hospital when Phyllis was a medical secretary.

After a short spell at the Northern Hospital, Winchmore Hill, Leslie was appointed as a consultant physician and paediatrician to the Doncaster hospital group in 1947. From 1964, until his retirement ten years later, he practised solely as a paediatrician. During his time in Doncaster he saw, and was involved in, a great number of changes culminating in the hospital paediatric care being based in one unit at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary. Quite early in his time in Doncaster, Leslie appreciated that full paediatric care meant more than the confines of a hospital. He initiated close liaison with the schools’ medical service, and was a frequent and welcome visitor to the local special schools.

Leslie had obviously enjoyed a happy childhood and he frequently spoke with great fondness of the family home in Somerset. It was there that he developed his initial interest in natural history, and this was to remain with him for the rest of his life.

He was a slim man of short stature, with alert eyes that betrayed his versatile and active mind. He was modest to the point of being self-effacing, and would express genuine surprise at his own achievements and successes. He had a gentle, yet robust sense of humour. He was never malicious, but enjoyed recounting anecdotes, particularly those directed against himself. His prime interest was as a clinician and he begrudged time spent on committee work. Despite this, his contributions at such meetings would be accurate, scholarly and logical - if at times lengthy enough to erode any opposition to his argument. He was loyal to his colleagues, and displayed a lasting pride and affection for his school, his university and his hospital.

Unfortunately Leslie’s retirement was marred by increasing ill health. He developed polymyalgia rheumatica and increasing respiratory difficulties due to chronic bronchitis. As a consequence he became increasingly house-bound. But his mind remained active, and he maintained his wide medical and scientific interests. During this period he exercised his knowledge by considering such diverse problems as the resilience of woodpeckers’ brains, and the care of mentally handicapped young adults.

Leslie’s life was devoted to his work, and consequently he enjoyed a limited social round. He had, however, a loving family. His wife and three sons survived him.

AF Conchie

(Volume VIII, page 216)

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