Lives of the fellows

William Esmond Rees

b.28 November 1900 d.7 August 1977
MRCS LRCP(1924) MB BS Lond(1925) MRCP(1927) MD(1928) FRCP(1944)

William Esmond Rees was born in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, where his father, Gwilym Rees, was in the steel industry and became a tinplate works manager. His mother, Margaret, was born in Llansamlet, Swansea, and her father was also called William Rees. He was a mill foreman. Amongst his friends, WE Rees was always referred to as ‘Esmond’.

Esmond Rees was educated at Gowerton County School and at Clifton College. He proceeded to the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff, and subsequently to St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School. He married Marion Balmforth of Bradford. They had a son and a daughter; the son became a consultant neurologist, John E Rees MD FRCP, of Brighton, Hove and Mid-Sussex Health Districts.

From 1924 to 1926 WE Rees was clinical assistant to the skin department and ante-natal department, casualty officer, and then house physician, St Thomas’s Hospital, to Sir Farquhar Buzzard. This was followed, between 1926 and 1929 with posts as resident house physician and resident medical officer, at the National Hospital, Queen Square, and from 1930 to 1933 as clinical assistant in outpatients at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary; combined with an appointment as demonstrator in anatomy at the Welsh National School of Medicine.

In 1933 he became assistant physician, Cardiff Royal Infirmary. Meanwhile, from 1930 to 1948 he was honorary consulting physician to the Swansea General and Eye Hospital, physician in charge of the diabetic department, and honorary consultant neurologist at the Swansea and West Wales Hospitals. For 19 years, until his retirement in 1967, Rees was senior consultant physician to the Swansea General and Eye Hospital, consultant in charge of the diabetic department, and consultant neurologist to the Swansea General Hospital; Morriston Hospital, Swansea; Neath General Hospital, and Carmarthen and West Wales Hospitals.

Rees was greatly sought after as a neurologist and had a special interest also in diabetes. A good number of his medical beds were always occupied by diabetic patients whose complications he most assiduously and skilfully managed. He showed endless patience in the care of such patients. He engaged in private consultant practice both as a general physician and as a neurologist.

Small of stature, he was a extremely energetic man both in his professional capacity and in other more general activities. He had a highly critical mind and would not be put off by irrelevancies or untidy presentations of problems. He was therefore a valuable committee member. He was impatient of illogical thinking processes and was always highly aware of the legalistic aspects of administrative measures and suggestions. In all these fields of his work, both his hospital clinical and committee work, he proved himself a medical man of the highest integrity and considerable intellectual powers. He was elected chairman of the Swansea Division of the BMA, an office which he filled with distinction, and was also highly regarded as a Welsh member of the Central Committee for Hospital Medical Services of the BMA.

In a more direct professional capacity, he was a founder member of the Association of British Neurologists and a founder member of the Society of Physicians in Wales. This latter was particularly his brain child. Its success was to a large degree due to Esmond Rees’s efforts and he remained the Society’s treasurer for many years, guiding its affairs skilfully. His clear mind made him an invaluable medical worker in the field of medico-legal work, in which he became very experienced. He was a meticulous and accurate performer of any task he set himself. Nothing was done casually. When he supervised any project it had to be done with an aim to perfection, a situation which some collaborators and subordinates sometimes found irksome and excessively demanding. Among other things, he was a keen and successful gardener.

EA Danino

[Brit.med.J., 1977, 2, 837]

(Volume VII, page 489)

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