Lives of the fellows

Thomas Gordon Paxon

b.1 April 1915 d.22 December 1992
MB BS Lond(1941) MRCP(1954) MD(1956) FRACP(1964) FRCP(1974)

Tom Paxon spent the latter half of his life in Australia. He was born in Wanstead, Essex, one of the two children of Alfred Thomas Paxon, a local merchant, and his wife Beatrice Elizabeth née Bunn. He was educated at Wanstead County High School and the The London Hospital, University of London. His first post was as house physician in the cardiac department at The London, under William Evans [Munk's Roll, Vol.VIII, p.146] with whom he had a paper published comparing the efficacy of several mercurial diuretics in heart failure. With the arrival of war he immediately enlisted in the Royal Navy and served as a surgeon lieutenant from February 1941 to May 1946. He married Phyllis Russell, a nursing sister at The London just before leaving for war service and they later had three sons. In September 1942 he came under fire while serving in HMS Faulknor, which was on convoy escort duty in the Baltic Sea.

After demobilization and some further study, he obtained his membership of the College. In 1956 he was awarded a doctorate for his thesis on ‘A study of the incidence and aetiology of respiratory cancer in Eire and England’. During this period, as well as his hospital posts he worked in the mass x-ray screening programme for tuberculosis control. This association led to his emigration to Australia in 1956 as future prospects in the UK were not good at that time.

The family migrated to Queensland where Tom took up the position of specialist physician at the Cairns Base Hospital. He stayed there for three years and this period imbued him with a lasting affection for North Queensland, which he delighted in revisiting in subsequent years. He moved to South Australia in 1959 to take up the position of director of tuberculosis and over the next 10 years headed the administration of public health aspects of tuberculosis and actively engaged in the clinical management of patients.

In 1969 he was appointed to the newly created position of senior specialist in chest diseases at the Repatriation General Hospital, Daws Road, South Australia. He was now at last fully in the area of medicine which pleased him most. He established a clinical and investigative service in thoracic medicine and developed a lung function laboratory, and in 1970 he spent three months in South Vietnam as part of a civilian medical team. In 1980 he retired from this position, and from active medical practice, to spend his days on his farm at Myponga, south of Adelaide.

Tom Paxon was a man of stature within the field of thoracic medicine. He was president of the Thoracic Society of Australia from 1966-67, having served on the council of the South Australia branch. He was also honorary secretary of the South Australia Marriage Guidance Council, 1971-73, an indication of his interest in human relationships.

He was a sensitive, gentle, amusing and confiding man, considerate of others and popular with colleagues and staff. He was drawn to medicine, although there were no doctors in his family and none of his three sons have followed him into the profession. He was universally popular and highly regarded, committed with humility and good humour to the welfare of his patients and his profession. His recreations included landscape painting, travel, writing verse and reading.

He and Phyllis encouraged William Evans, with whom friendship was maintained from student days, to edit and notate his grandfather’s diaries as a contribution to Australian history. Diary of a Welsh swagman 1869-1894 was first published in 1975. Tom had been a cross country runner while at university and he continued athletic pursuits as a year-round early morning swimmer. He sailed a small boat until 1973, when farming took up most of his leisure time. Phyllis and his sons survived him; Paul is a dentist in Canada, David a detective in the South Australian Police Force and Michael is a farmer.

M J R Drew

(Volume IX, page 413)

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