Lives of the fellows

Patrick Henry O'Donovan

b.1900 d.28 November 1977
MRCS LRCP(1923) MB BS Lond(1924) MD(1928) MRCP(1928) FRCP(1944)

Patrick O’Donovan was proud to have been born in London within the sound of Bow bells. He was the son of Patrick O’Donovan, civil servant, and his wife, formerly Beatrice Gibson, daughter of an iron foundry owner. He was a brother of WJ O’Donovan who became consultant dermatologist to the London Hospital. He attended Cooper’s School and the London Hospital Medical College. He came to Nottingham General Hospital as house physician in 1925. In 1928 he was given leave of absence to study for the MD and MRCP. He served as RMO in the National Heart Hospital during this time and was successful in both examinations.

He was appointed honorary assistant physician to the Nottingham General Hospital in 1930, honorary physician in 1937 and when the Health Service started in 1948, consultant physician. He was honorary librarian of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society from 1934 to 1937, and in 1956 the Society (composed of members from all medical disciplines in the area) conferred upon him its highest honour by electing him president for the year. He was a member of the British Heart Society for many years.

He was appointed honorary assistant physician at a time when there were very few trained specialists available outside teaching centres. The Nottingham Medical School was not to be established for another thirty years. He quickly showed his special interest and skill in cardiology and it was not long before he was widely recognized as giving an outstanding opinion in the Midlands. His private practice therefore made increasing demands upon his time, but he never neglected his hospital patients and for many years did a regular ward round on Sunday mornings.

In 1932 he married Mary Dobson and they had two sons. He continued to live in Nottingham after his retirement.

Patrick O’Donovan was not an easy man to get to know and he had few close medical friends, although all his colleagues had the highest regard for his professional skill and personal integrity. He was a shy man of few words, quiet but firm. If he was convinced that a cause deserved his support this was given with vigour and determination. On the other hand if he felt that something was wrong he had no hesitation in opposing it, even though this could be unpopular and unfashionable.

He was never a great sportsman. In his earlier days he enjoyed a little golf and an occasional day’s shooting but work claimed a great deal of his time. He enjoyed reading, and in his later years he took up bowls. One of his unique experiences was to receive a blank cheque from JD Player of the wealthy tobacco family; this he did not complete but had it framed, and showed it with pleasure to his visitors who thus gained an interesting insight into his character.

Throughout his life he was a committed Roman Catholic, and one of his great joys was the Papal Honour, Bene Merenti, bestowed on him a year or two before he died.

JM Macfie

[Brit.med.J., 1977, 2, 1599]

(Volume VII, page 438)

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