Lives of the fellows

Robert Hector Quentin-Baxter

b.1891 d.30 August 1979
MC(1917) MB BCh NZ(1916) MRCP(1925) FRACP(1938) FRCP(1952)

Robert Quentin-Baxter was educated at Otago Boys’ High School and the Otago Medical School. Graduating in 1916, he was a house surgeon at Wellington Hospital and then joined the New Zealand Medical Corps, in which he served until 1920. He saw much heavy fighting on the western front, and at the Battle of Passchendaele received the immediate award of the Military Cross for attending the wounded under fire.

On leaving the Army Quentin-Baxter had a short period of postgraduate study at St George’s Hospital and at the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases, London, where he developed an interest in neurology and came for a brief time under the influence of Sir James Collier. While at St George’s he played rugby for his hospital - he had already excelled at this sport both at school and at Otago University. He gained the MRCP in 1925 and later was elected a fellow of the Royal College. He was an original member of the Australasian Association of Physicians, soon to become The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, of which he was a foundation fellow in 1938 and New Zealand vice-president in 1951 —1952.

He returned to New Zealand in 1925 and after a short period as medical officer at Hanmer Hospital, where he undertook the care of war-neurosis patients, was appointed to the honorary staff of Christchurch Hospital as assistant physician. Commencing private practice when specialization in the various disciplines was just developing, he became one of the first to do so in medicine, and soon acquired a large consulting practice.

His interest was primarily in diseases of the nervous system, and after World War II he became a close colleague and friend of Murray Falconer FRCS, who had established the first neurosurgical unit at Otago. Quentin-Baxter retired from his hospital post in 1952 when he was elected to the honorary consulting staff. For a number of years he continued with his consulting work in neurology but also turned some of his attention to geriatric medicine, at a time when this special field of medicine was in its infancy. He joined the honorary staff of the Mary Potter Hospital for the Aged Sick, a project of the Roman Catholic church.

Quentin-Baxter was more than a competent physician with a great love and concern for his patients; he was tolerant, just, and had a strong sense of fair play. His early sporting achievements in both cricket and rugby, and his later abiding interest in trout fishing influenced his outlook. His mischievous sense of humour enlivened many occasions.

While in England after the first world war he married another New Zealander, Dorothy Barclay of Waimate, New Zealand. He was devoted to his talented family of one daughter and three sons. His family and wife survived him. A son, Quentin, became professor of International Law at Victoria University, Wellington; Kimball farms near Christchurch; Graham is in business and his daughter Gillian married Jonathan Bennett, professor of philosophy at Syracuse University, USA and son of FO Bennet FRACP.

During Quentin-Baxter’s later years, when the specialty of neurology was beginning to grow in New Zealand, he took an active part in forming a New Zealand Neurological Association, and it was therefore natural that he should have been elected its first president in 1957.

Quentin-Baxter was the kind of person whose influence lives after them. Stories will continue to be told of his ward rounds, and yet he was not an outstanding clinical teacher. He will be remembered as a kindly gentleman.

CG Riley

[Brit.med.J., 1979, 2, 1230]

(Volume VII, page 483)

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