Lives of the fellows

Robert McKenzie Miller

b.6 June 1912 d.24 May 1997
MRCS LRCP(1937) MA MB BChir Cantab(1938) MRCP(1942) FRCP(1969)

A consultant at Kent and Sussex Hospital, Robert McKenzie Miller was one of the last of the truly general physicians, whose discipline has been almost stifled by the hoard of ‘specialties’ spawned by modern medicine. Fortunately the need for the general physician is once again being accepted and hopefully there will be the likes of Robert Miller in the future.

He was born in Winchmore Hill, London, of Scottish parents. He was educated at Leys School and went on to win an honorary exhibition to Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. There he completed his pre-clinical education and gained a first in his natural science tripos, before moving on to the London Hospital for his clinical training.

His junior appointments were held at the London and Poplar Hospitals before he became a registrar at Orsett Hospital where he acquired his membership. For the next four years he served in the RAFVR, rising to the rank of wing commander in the medical branch. Following demobilization he was appointed as a consultant physician to Pembury Hospital in Kent, where Guy’s Hospital pre-clinical students had been accommodated during the war. Following the retirement of Maurice Ramsden he joined the staff of the Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells and continued to serve both hospitals until his retirement from the NHS. This was not the end of his medical career - he then became medical adviser to Ticehurst House, a private psychiatric hospital, a post which he held until his death.

He was a true generalist, keeping assiduously up to date with new drugs and techniques and was unusual in devoting a regular half day each week to deal with problem patients or talk with relatives. He had particular interests in cardiology and diabetes and was closely involved with the early years and formation of the British Diabetic Association.

Robert was a very private person: he was a perfectionist and his life revolved around his patients and family. Gentle and quietly spoken, he was known as ‘Mac’ to his friends in recognition of his Scottish ancestry of which he was justly proud.

In 1942 he followed medical tradition and married Barbara Tipper, a London Hospital nurse, with whom he shared many interests. An accomplished hockey player at school he followed many sports, taking a particular interest in the fortunes of the Scottish Rugby Union team. He enjoyed fishing and golf and in later years developed his gardening skills and a great love of opera, being a member of the Glyndebourne Festival Society from 1959. A lover of birds and belonging to the RSPB he delighted in holidays in the more remote areas of Wales.

Barbara died in 1994 after a long illness to which he completely devoted his later years. It was a heavy and prolonged burden (I believe he retired prematurely from the NHS in order to care for her), but he was never one to complain, accepting his lot with typical stoicism and a beaming smile. A lifelong nature lover, Robert derived great solace in his remaining years from Mandy, his Yorkshire terrier, who predeceased him by a few months. He died following a cerebrovascular accident.

R C King

[Brit.med.J., 1997,315,1383]

(Volume X, page 339)

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