Lives of the fellows

Brian John Prout

b.3 September 1933 d.16 September 1985
MRCS LRCP(1958) MB BS Lond(1958) PhD(1963) MRCP(1965) MD(1967) FRCP(1977)

Brian Prout was born in Surrey of Cornish parents. His father, William Prout, was born in Cam Brea and his mother in East Pentire. They moved to London when William was admitted to Hendon Police College, subsequently joining the Metropolitan Police and spending most of his working life in Kingston. Brian was educated at Tiffin Boys School, Kingston-upon-Thames, and displayed an early enthusiasm for drawing but was attracted to medicine, to a large extent as a challenge because his schoolmasters said he could not do it. He went on to University College Hospital, London, graduating in 1958 after an outstanding student career, during which he was awarded the Lister gold medal, the McGrath prize and scholarship, and the Percival Alleyn award.

At UCH Brian met and married in 1960 Elizabeth Jane Chilcott, daughter of John Chilcott, a general practitioner who was born in Truro, trained at King’s, and who eventually practised in Kingswood, Bristol.

After junior house officer posts at UCH and Whittington Hospital Brian went to the Royal Free as research registrar, where his work on the autonomic nervous system was rewarded by a PhD (physiology) in 1963. For two years he was medical registrar at Epsom District Hospital, following which he became a senior registrar at the Radcliffe Infirmary. He gained the MRCP in 1965, his MD following in 1967,and was elected FRCP in 1977. During his senior registrar post he wrote his second doctoral thesis, again on the autonomic nervous system, exemplifying his remarkable energy and tenacity. For most, writing a doctoral thesis is a major endurance test but to Brian Prout it was just another milestone in his overall plan.

In 1968 he was appointed consultant physician to the new Royal Cornwall Hospital (Treliske), fulfilling his lifetime ambition to return to his native Cornwall. There followed many years of dynamic activity. He introduced upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to Cornwall and established his own unit, giving a highly competent and efficient service to the county. His ability and high standards were quickly recognized and he became extremely popular with his general practitioners and consultant colleagues alike, developing a very busy NHS and private practice. Early on he was appointed a clinical tutor and tackled his teaching commitments with tremendous gusto. He initiated and organized regular lunchtime tutorials, and continued to chair these meetings even after his retirement through ill health.

Throughout his career he remained an enthusiastic clinical investigator and published widely, mainly on gastroenterological topics. He was also a keen traveller and participator in clinical meetings, and was in considerable demand as a visiting lecturer. In 1983 he was joint author, with J G Cooper, of a useful text, An Outline of clinical diagnosis, Bristol, Wright, based on his tutorials.

In 1976, at the height of his career, he became acutely ill with a highly malignant lymphoma and over the next nine years he endured surgery, radiotherapy and recurrent courses of cytotoxic drugs. Throughout his illness he displayed outstanding courage and strength. Although near death on many occasions he exhibited extreme resilience and stoicism, and was never heard to complain. To the last he maintained his optimism, and always managed to talk about and plan for the future.

Outside medicine, Brian had a plethora of interests; indeed one could say he was hyperactive. Family life was tremendously important and with his wife and two daughters he sailed, surfed, jogged, cycled and swam at every opportunity. He radiated energy, there was an urgency about him, an eagerness to get things done, a delight in activity and wholehearted enthusiasm for whatever he was doing.

His talents were many; he was both creative and practical, and always resourceful. A first class swimmer, he was a founder member of Truro Swimming Club in 1970, at the age of 37. Adept at the horn, clarinet and euphonium, he had considerable musical ability. An appreciation of beauty and an acute eye combined to produce in him a painter of considerable achievement. Good draughtsmanship and a keen sense of humour likewise coupled to make him a skilled cartoonist. His drawings illustrated many hospital publications and a local paper carried his cartoons for many years.

Brian had many endearing qualities, the most striking being his unfailing good humour and easy manner. He never lost the common touch, and his rather laconic hybrid rural accent heightened his approachability and contributed to his popularity.

Brian loved Cornwall and thought it a great privilege to live and work there. The sea, and nature in all its aspects, delighted him and he had a particular affection for Devoran village, where he was a regular churchgoer and took an active part in village life. He died in the hospital where he had worked for sixteen years.

AD Perrett

[Brit.med.J., 1985,291,1284]

(Volume VIII, page 395)

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