Lives of the fellows

John Collinson Heather

b.30 April 1906 d.16 February 1973
MRCS LRCP(1928) MB BS Lond(1930) MRCP(1932) MD(1934) FRCP(1962)

As a student at Guy’s Hospital Heather won the Treasurer’s Gold Medal in Medicine and qualified MRCS, LRCP in 1928, graduating MB, BS in 1930. His resident appointments at Guy’s Hospital included house physician to John Ryle and John Conybeare. Moving then to Birmingham he was resident medical officer and then morbid anatomist at the Queen’s Hospital. He was elected to the staff of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital as Consultant Physician in 1939. After this hospital was virtually destroyed in the blitz of 1941, he served in the RAMC in Northern Ireland, in West Africa and in Burma, where he commanded the Medical Division of a Military Hospital.

He returned to Coventry in 1946 and soon began to establish his reputation as an outstanding physician. His unhurried approach and scrupulous attention to detail were combined with a remarkable diagnostic flair, and his opinion on a clinical problem was invariably enlightening. His enthusiasm for clinical medicine never flagged, and in spite of his growing administrative responsibilities his dedicated care of patients was never allowed to suffer. He was much in demand as a physician by Coventry doctors and their families, and especially by the nursing staff in whose health and wellbeing he took particular interest.

When the NHS came into being Heather was a founding member of the Coventry Hospital Management Committee, and in 1953 he was appointed to the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board on which he served until his death. His work on behalf of the regional board and the Coventry Hospitals was prodigious. Coventry, after the war, had appalling deficiencies in its medical services and he devoted himself tirelessly to the planning of the new hospital at Walsgrave which opened in 1970. This was one of the first and finest hospitals to be built in Britain after the war and many of its imaginative and controversial features were a tribute to the part he played in its design and working policies. Walsgrave Hospital remains as a standing memorial to his great efforts.

Heather’s administrative skill was recognised by the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board, where he became Chairman of the Planning Committee. His grasp of the overall medical scene in this very large region was remarkable, and he always regarded the integration of medical services of the regional hospitals and the Birmingham teaching hospitals, of which he was a governor, as of the greatest importance.

An eccentric in his personal affairs, he was in some ways an enigma to his friends and colleagues. And yet he was one who never failed to command their interest and affection.

IR Gray

[Brit.med.J., 1973, 1, 557; Lancet, 1973, 1, 498]

(Volume VI, page 232)

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