Lives of the fellows

James Brian Lowe

b.23 September 1917 d.4 November 1993
OBE MB ChB Edin(1940) MRCPE(1947) MRCP(1948)FRCPE(1957) FRACP(1965) FRCP(1967) Hon FRACS(1975)

James Lowe, always known as Jim, was the son of a Scottish engineer, James Lowe, and his wife Elizabeth née McKibbin. Jim was born in his parents’ house in Auckland, New Zealand, which was later to become his own home throughout his working life. Having attended King’s Preparatory School and King’s College in Auckland, he came to the UK to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Following graduation he served as house physician at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh for a year and then joined the RAF as a medical officer for the duration of the war, before returning to Edinburgh to spend two years as registrar to Ray Gilchrist. Subsequently he took up senior registrar posts in cardiology, 1946-50, at the Hammersmith, Brompton and National Heart Hospitals. In 1951 he became first assistant to Paul Wood [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.456] at the Institute of Cardiology and in 1953, when appointed a full-time cardiologist at Green Lane Hospital, he was able to bring Wood’s analytical and scientific approach to New Zealand.

This was the first sub-specialist physician appointment on the Auckland scene and Jim started work without the help of junior staff. He fitted into the cardiosurgical group which was formed in 1948, led by English-trained physician cardiologists Edward Roche and Laurie Reynolds, together with surgeons Douglas Robb, later Sir Douglas, and Rowan Nicks. Success in the new environment meant not only skills in cardiology but also considerable tact and ability to work with others. Jim began as he was to continue; quiet, self-effacing and patiently accommodating all views. His expertise and judgement were rapidly accepted, first by the Green Lane group and then throughout the whole of the Auckland scene. Edward Roche said that Jim Lowe brought to Green Lane a good portion of Wood’s knowledge and skills without Wood's occasional irritability and asperity, and that Lowe blended his knowledge and clinical acumen with tact, diplomacy and a wholesome measure of scientific humility. Jim's qualities did indeed form the basis of the aspirations and morale of the Green Lane group and provided the sound cardiological base needed for the major surgical developments occurring at that time, accelerated by the appointment of Brian Barratt-Boyes, later Sir Brian, in 1957. Jim Lowe always led by example and his courteous manner made junior staff feel they were doing him a great favour by carying out their duties conscientiously; he invariably extracted the best from staff.

Although encouraged by Paul Wood and others to take up the position in Auckland m 1953, they continued to invite him to apply for senior positions in London on a number of occasions. His retiring nature meant that he was never a prominent figure at national or international meetings but his skills and judgement were universally recognized. He was a corresponding member of the British Cardiac Society and the Association of European Paediatric Cardiologists. In 1958 he became the first secretary of the newly established New Zealand committee of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand. He was elected a Fellow of the College, of the Edinburgh College and the Australasian College, and an honorary fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He was also awarded the OBE.

Dick Rowe introduced the North American influence into paediatric cardiology in 1961 and the whole array of modern practices were in use at Green Lane by the time of Jim’s retirement m 1982. He himself remained conservative and thorough and always had to be convinced that each new venture was sound. His superb clinical judgement set the standard for others to emulate. He was an excellent clinical teacher with a delightful, quiet sense of humour, and also a reader in cardiology at the Auckland School of Medicine. He earned the respect and affection of all who were fortunate enough to work with him. After many years full-time at Green Lane, he entered consultant private practice, which he continued after his retirement from the hospital.

Jim Lowe had a lifelong interest in music, theatre and art, and enjoyed relaxing at his beach house. He also had a hidden talent as a handyman - an ability which enabled him to produce the first rapid film changer in the radiology department at Green Lane - but he always seemed to have a long list of unfinished tasks. He was a devoted family man and his marriage in 1956 to Jocelyn Howard, daughter of a journalist, was a wonderfully happy union. He was always very proud of his children, James, Jane, Vicki and Andrew. He lived to see two grandchildren - one being the fifth James Lowe in the family. For many years the staff at Green Lane shared something of their happy family life, especially around Christmas, at their gracious old family home.

J M Neutze

(Volume IX, page 323)

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