Lives of the fellows

Thomas Newton Rudd

b.15 November 1906 d.3 September 1995
TD(1946) MRCS LRCP(1929) MB BS Lond(1930) MRCP(1932) MD(1932) FRCP(1966)

Tom Rudd was a pioneer of geriatric medicine who built up services for older people in the Wessex area and wrote about his experiences dealing with the elderly. He was born in London and brought up in Southend. His father was a company secretary. Although he had no family connection with medicine, he was a descendent of Sir Isaac Newton, hence his second name. He trained at the London Hospital, where he won many prizes and gained his MD and his membership of the College within three years of qualification. After house jobs at the London he joined a general practice at Tiverton where he was both a GP and a member of the staff at Tiverton Hospital. Just before the war he left Tiverton and for a short time joined the London Fever Hospital Service.

He was a keen territorial and military service was an important part of his life. He joined 128 Field Ambulance in Exeter in 1934. At the outbreak of the war he joined the RAMC and became a medical specialist at the Royal Herbert Hospital. After two years he went overseas as commander of a medical division, in 1942 to Algeria and in 1944 to Normandy. After demobilization in 1945 he continued as a territorial, re-starting 128 Field Ambulance and commanding it for several years. Finally as a full colonel he commanded a general hospital in the Army Emergency Reserve. Tom loved the Army and was proud of his TD and of his membership of the Royal Army Reserve of Officers.

After the war Tom was persuaded to return to Tiverton to join an experimental group practice. As the practice physician his major work was at Tiverton Hospital, but his responsibilities also included an old workhouse infirmary, Belmont Hospital. He was distressed at the disparity of standards between the two hospitals and was determined to improve things. Regular ward rounds were started and notes were kept. Old men who had been kept in bed for years with hernias which no one had thought of treating were sent for surgery, brought back to Belmont for rehabilitation, and then went home. Most importantly Tom began to teach the nurses. His lectures were well received and in 1952 they were published in the Nursing Mirror.

Tom found himself so preoccupied with Belmont that he decided to specialize in geriatric medicine. His opportunity came in 1957 at Southampton. He found himself, aged 50, a single-handed consultant responsible for over 300 beds. In time he was joined by Fred Ashton, who sadly died young, but they built up a fine multidisciplinary team at Moorgreen Hospital. Tom’s influence grew after Wessex became a separate region under the direction of the great Sir John Revans [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.408], who was very supportive. Tom also collaborated with Knowle Hospital to build a psychogeriatric service and Southampton was one of the first places to appoint a psychiatrist specializing in the elderly. Moorgreen acquired an excellent reputation and received many visitors. Wessex was initially the only region without a teaching hospital, but it was partly on account of its geriatric services that Southampton was chosen for the new medical school. Tom had prepared the ground for its chair in geriatric medicine, again one of the first in the country. Tom’s name is remembered in the Tom Rudd unit at Moorgreen which opened in 1982, ten years after his retirement.

Tom retired in 1971, but worked as a locum in Wessex for the next few years. He then worked part time for the Health Advisory Service where he made many new friends. His last assignment was to write a report for the World Health Organization on geriatric services in Cyprus.

Tom was a prolific writer. He had great psychological insight but was not a conventional research worker. He was well read, not only in medicine but also in the Bible and English writers and poets. He had a special interest in medieval history and after he retired he became a guide at Winchester Cathedral. Never at a loss for an apt quotation he wrote over 60 papers. His book The nursing of the elderly sick, a practical handbook of geriatric nursing (London, Faber, 1953) went through six editions and led the field for twenty years. It did much to humanize the care of the elderly. His second book Human relations in old age (London, Faber, 1967), for health visitors and social workers dealt with the role of older people, their value to society and the problems of those who work with them. It was less popular than his nursing textbook but is full of insights into the perennial problems inseparable from the practice of geriatric medicine. It is still worth reading today.

Tom was an admirer of the psychiatrist Jung whose book Modern man in search of a soul he read many times. Jung taught that old age had its own value in the life cycle and that man has a religious instinct which must be satisfied if there is to be fulfilment in old age. These two themes were discussed in Tom's first paper in 1957 and preoccupied him for the rest of his life. He was a man of profound spirituality and religion, and his beliefs became ever more important to him. Brought up a Methodist he became an Anglican whilst a student and twenty five years later he and his wife became Catholics. He was very ecumenical and it delighted him that while he and his wife were Catholic, his son was Anglican and his daughter Orthodox. When over eighty he crystallized his experience in a short book Growing old with God (SLG Press, 1988). He was a perfect example of his belief that old age can be a time a spiritual growth and continued writing to the end. He faced his own death from laryngeal cancer with complete acceptance.

Tom married his house physician at Tiverton, Mary Christie, in 1938. She died of cancer in 1946, leaving him with two small children. In 1949 he married the sister of one of his partners at Tiverton, Mary Etheldreda (Dreda) Graham. She brought up his children and their marriage was as happy as his first.

R E Irvine

[Brit.med.J., 1995,311,1296]

(Volume X, page 426)

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