Lives of the fellows

Robert James Kernohan

b.22 February 1919 d.5 February 1975
MB BCh BAO Belf(1941) MD(1947) DPH(1948) MRCPI(1948) MRCP(1949) DCH Eng(1950) FRCPI(1958) FRCP(1973)

Robert James Kernohan was the eldest of five sons, his father being James McNabney Kernohan, managing director of a family wholesale grocery business in Belfast; his mother was Nellie Ramsey, whose father was an engineer, both belonging to Country Antrim farming stock. Kernohan was born at Ballymena, County Antrim, and was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and the Queen’s University, Belfast. He graduated with first class honours and first place in medicine in 1941. After a year as house physician and surgeon in hospital he served in the Army with the RAMC for the rest of the Second World War, afterwards returning to the Royal Victoria Hospital as registrar and proceeding MD in 1947. Two years later he was appointed consultant physician to the Waveney and Massereene Hospitals, Ballymena. In 1958 he was elected FRCPI and in 1973 a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London. Other appointments included: clinical tutor, 1967; clinical examiner in medicine, Q.U.B. 1972, and senior examiner at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, of which he became a Junior Censor. In 1973 he was elected President of the Irish Cardiological Society.

Always remembered for his nimble wit and the enthusiastic interest which he brought especially to the subject of cardiac disease, and coronary arterial occlusion in particular, two of his principal achievements were the establishment of a postgraduate teaching centre at the Waveney Hospital, and the setting up of a cardiac unit with ambulance service for the treatment of cases of acute coronary occlusion.

Apart from his devotion to medicine he had many outside interests, e.g. in Freemasonry, as a member of the Kirk Session of his church, and as a Justice of the Peace. Gardening and the cultivation of flowers, especially roses, interested him and he was often to be seen wearing a rose in his buttonhole from the garden.

At the time of his death there was no sign of any weakening in his enthusiasm for his chosen subject and his other interests, and it is pleasing to note that in 1973 he had been invited to undertake the duties of Visiting Professor in Cardiology in the University of the West Indies.

Robert Kernohan was survived by his wife, three sons, and two daughters. One of his sons became a doctor and another a veterinary surgeon.

He was a prolific writer, having contributed some 54 articles to medical journals (chiefly concerned with cardiac disease). Had he lived, he might well have produced an authoritative textbook on the care of patients suffering from acute myocardial infarction.

RS Allison

[Brit.med.J., 1975, 2, 44, 397]

(Volume VI, page 266)

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