Lives of the fellows

Keith Ridley Douglas Porter

b.27 March 1913 d.5 December 1977
MBE(1943) MRCS LRCP(1938) LDS RCS(1939) DPH(1947) MRCP(1968) FRCP(1972) FFCM(1972) QHP(1977)

Keith Porter, regional medical officer of the South East Thames Regional Health Authority and honorary physician to HM The Queen, was born in Ismailia, Egypt. His father, Douglas David Porter, was a quantity surveyor, and his mother, Olive Lucia, was the daughter of John Deck, a medical practitioner. He was educated at Monkton Combe School, Bath, and qualified in medicine and dentistry at Guy’s Hospital, London, just prior to the second world war.

He had a distinguished war record, serving in the Middle East and Europe. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and appointed MBE in 1943. On demobilization he spent a number of years in East Africa with the Overseas Food Corporation, before returning to a short but valuable period in general practice in England.

His administrative career began with the regional hospital boards of the Oxford and Birmingham regions. In 1964 he was appointed senior administrative medical officer to the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority and for the next five years he worked unstintingly in a very difficult environment to create an efficient hospital organization in the province of Northern Ireland. He won great respect for his work and many friends, and the organization he helped to create still benefits from the contribution he made in the 1960s. In 1969 he returned to England; first as senior administrative medical officer of the South East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board and then, after the reorganization of the National Health Service, as regional medical officer of the new South East Thames Regional Health Authority.

Keith Porter was grossly overworked, yet he never complained, and despite his many commitments he found time to serve on the council of the London School of Hygiene and on the school council of his own alma mater. From 1971 to 1977 he also served on the council of Professions Supplementary to Medicine. He was elected a fellow of WHO in 1963, a fellow of the College in 1972, and was appointed a member of the Court of the University of Kent in 1977. He was a very distinguished figure in the emerging specialty of community medicine and had the highest possible reputation in this field. He was a leader who inspired the confidence and loyalty of his staff, and his wide preparation and training gave him a profound knowledge of medical administration and the practice of medicine in all its many facets. He was an indefatigable worker who took the minimum of holidays, and during the last two years of his life the pressures on him increased enormously, for he was fighting to make sure that the current financial stringencies should not be allowed to reduce the quality of service in the South East Thames region.

Many honours and distinctions came his way, and he was especially pleased by his appointment as honorary physician to the Queen, which came shortly before his death. As a man, Keith Porter was a gentle and compassionate friend whose ability and devotion to service were a natural result of his personality, In 1939 he married Elsie Grace, daughter of Hartley Holmes, a Royal Artillery Officer, and they had three children: two sons and a daughter. His married life was extremely happy, and he had many interests outside his work. He loved music and was an accomplished organist. He also enjoyed golf, gardening and sailing.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
Valérie Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1977, 2, 1676; Lancet, 1977, 2, 1371; Times, 10 Dec 1977]

(Volume VII, page 475)

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