Lives of the fellows

John Bernard Mitchell

b.18 July 1915 d.13 January 1997
MRCS LRCP(1939) MB BS Lond(1946) MD(1948) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1971)

John Bernard Mitchell was a consultant physician in general medicine at the Bolton Hospitals between 1951 and 1979. During the course of his career he fostered a special interest in chest diseases. He was born in Swansea and, after being educated at Downside, went on to Mary’s Hospital Medical School, qualifying in 1939. As a medical student at St Mary’s he was taught by many well known St Mary’s figures, including Alexander Fleming [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.106] and Arthur Dickson Wright. As a keen and able sportsman he became captain of the Rifle Club when Fleming was it’s president and the club won the Hospitals Cup. This was also the era of Sir Almorth Wright [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.460] and at that time John Freeman also took a keen interest in the Rifle Club, lending his car on Saturday mornings so that the team could go to Bisley.

For Mitchell qualification coincided with the outbreak of the Second World War and he immediately joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was sent on the ill-fated Norwegian campaign. Later he served in India, West Africa, Normandy and Singapore (where he wrote papers on malnutrition in prisoners of war).

Following demobilization he completed his training, firstly back at St Mary’s, then at the Brompton and North Middlesex Hospitals. For a short period he was senior registrar to the Cambridge chest clinic.

On appointment as consultant to the Bolton Hospitals his first task was the control of tuberculosis, at that time still a very common and important health problem. He also developed the chest clinic service and bronchoscopy unit. During this time he described the first cases of aluminium-induced pulmonary fibrosis in Britain and served as president of several local and regional clinical and management organizations. His enthusiasm for clinical medicine and teaching resulted in a long succession of successful MRCP candidates, nearly all from overseas, who worked for him. His scrupulous sense of fair play led him to be appointed spokesman for the Bolton consultants during the difficult disputes in the NHS in the early 1970s.

He was an enthusiastic skier, the proud possessor of a hole on one tie for golf and swam regularly until the last few months of his life. He was also a keen gardener and loved music and reading. He married his wife Elizabeth McKenzie Newton in 1947 and they had a daughter and a son (both doctors). He died suddenly of a myocardial infarction.

D M Mitchell

[Brit.med.J., 1997,314,1557]

(Volume X, page 344)

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