Lives of the fellows

John Anthony Hickman

b.9 April 1940 d.23 January 1979
BChir Cantab(1964) BA MB(1965) MRCP(1966) FRCP(1978)

John Anthony Hickman, one of twins, was educated at Greshams School, Selwyn College, Cambridge, and the Middlesex Hospital, where he qualified in 1964. He held a number of junior appointments at the Middlesex, obtaining the MRCP in 1966. Rather unusually for a physician he then held a post in the department of surgical studies for two years. During this time he carried out original research in fibrinogen metabolism, and developed a new technique for the quantitative estimation of fibrinolysis. This was followed by an appointment as senior medical registrar at the Brompton Hospital. Returning to full time clinical medicine, his clinical acumen and mature approach to medical problems soon became evident there. He had always been interested in teaching, and this manifested itself most obviously at the Brompton by the efficient yet self-effacing part he played in the organization of the Monday clinical meetings.

In November 1972 he was appointed consultant physician to the London Hospital and the London Chest Hospital at the early age of 32. He immediately threw himself wholeheartedly into the life of both hospitals. In particular he was most active in the teaching of the undergraduates at the London Hospital Medical College. He became a clinical tutor and often entertained students at his home. He took great pride and pleasure in this teaching and never hesitated to rearrange his increasingly busy schedule to fit in a student lecture.

In addition he was consultant physician to the Post Office and Civil Service Sanatorium Society and medical adviser to the Midland Bank. He was a member of the British Thoracic and Tuberculosis Association. After his death a memorial fund was set up at the London Hospital Medical College to endow a student prize and an annual lecture in his memory. The first such lecture was given in October 1981.

John married Anne Veronica, daughter of Herbert Walmsley Higginson, a solicitor, in 1968 and they had three sons. His busy life did not leave him much time for leisure activities, but he was an excellent golfer and enjoyed playing at Sandwich and Brancaster. They had a cottage at Salthouse, where he would enjoy bird-watching and walking on the beach with his sons.

He developed acute leukaemia in November 1977. He bore his illness with great fortitude and equanimity. He had the most modern treatment of total body irradiation, followed by a marrow transplant from his twin, medical brother, Roger. Throughout this time he remained his usual self and still found time to think of others, and for a time the transplant seemed to be successful. Sadly, he relapsed tragically about a year after the initial onset of his illness. He was looked after at home during his final months, receiving tremendous support from his wife and twin brother. Although he knew the end was in sight he faced this without remorse and indeed with serenity.

Two days before he died he was still asking about the hospital and actively planning for the future. In five years he made a great impression, and many friends, in the hospital and medical school at the London. He was characteristically modest about his achievements, and a typical remark of his when thanked for a postgraduate lecture he gave overseas was to reply ‘I came to teach you, but it was you who taught me’.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme

[, 1979, 1, 418]

(Volume VII, page 259)

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