Lives of the fellows

Edmund Day Sever

b.1 September 1928 d.17 July 1986
MB ChB Edin(1951) MRCP(1957) FRCP(1974)

Edmund (Ted) Sever was proud of being a Yorkshireman, having been born in Scarborough where his father, Frank Sever, was a bank manager. His mother was Hilda Gertrude Day. He was educated at Oundle School and Edinburgh University, where he graduated in 1951. Following house officer appointments at Northallerton he entered the Army for his period of national service, serving in England and the Middle East. He received training in pathology while in the Army and, on demobilization, he took up a senior house officer post in pathology at Wigan. However, his heart was set on securing a consultancy in general medicine and he realized that he would have to work his way up from the bottom of the tree again, in prestigious appointments, if he were to have a real chance of fulfilling his ambition. Later in life he often gave similar advice to his junior staff, to correct their career plans towards a consultancy.

He returned to Edinburgh as house physician to Rae Gilchrist at the Royal Infirmary, and later worked with Ian Grant at the Northern General Hospital. In furtherance of his plan he moved south to London with house appointments at the National Hospitals Queen Square and Hammersmith Hospital. In 1959 he returned to Edinburgh Infirmary as registrar to J K Slater, an appointment which furthered his lifelong interest in clinical nuerology. It was at this time that he was observed helping one of the house physicians with her daily chores - and he married Jess Gordon in 1961.

Although he had set his eyes on a senior registrarship in neurology, fate took him to a position in rheumatology at the West London Hospital under William Copeman [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.120] and Oswald Savage. With this comprehensive training he was appointed consultant physician, with an interest in rheumatology, at Northampton General Hospital in 1964.

Ted Sever quickly established his reputation as a very able general physician with sound clinical judgement. He retained his interest in neurology and delighted in making clinical neurological diagnoses. At Mansfield Hospital, Northampton, he worked in close collaboration with his orthopaedic surgical colleagues in the combined management of joint disease and, because of the availability of ancillary staff there, he was also able to establish a stroke unit.

Ted was a gifted and conscientious teacher who thoroughly enjoyed preparing candidates for the MRCP examinations. He devoted extra time to the preparation of tutorials, bedside classes, and journal clubs for the junior staff. Shortly after arriving in Northampton he was appointed the hospital clinical tutor, coinciding with the opening of the new Cripps Postgraduate Medical Centre. The immediate success of this centre was entirely due to his drive in presenting an intensive training programme for all varieties of medical staff. In particular, he participated in general practice activities and, later, in the vocational training scheme. He was a great stimulator of the junior medical staff in their preparation for examinations, and a ready source of advice for them.

He had a continuing interest in the College and served as Oxford regional adviser for a short period. He represented the College frequently on visiting committees for the assessment of the training of junior doctors and consultant appointments. He was a firm believer in election to the Fellowship depending entirely on merit and not on seniority.

Throughout his consultancy he remained a loyal supporter of the National Health Service. He continued as a full time physician and shunned private practice. He aimed to treat all patients individually, giving them his personal attention. He was as concerned with their social and emotional welfare as with their physical illness, and frequently held joint meetings with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and all types of therapists. He was foremost, locally, in introducing problem orientated records, and in instructing his junior staff in this approach to patients.

Being a Yorkshireman, he naturally played cricket for his school, university and hospital, until ill health prevented him. He was also a golfer. He enjoyed reading, especially poetry and history, and was particularly interested in Greek culture. Through his regular commitment to his local Anglican church he became involved in the work of Amnesty International. He also took a great interest, initially, in the establishment of the Social Democratic Party and attended their mobile conferences. Becoming alarmed at the shortage of books in schools, he waged a largely single-handed protest against the local education authority.

Ted was happiest when working, and found it difficult to relax on holiday. Tragically he died alone, while walking the Zwölferhorn in Austria. He was survived by his widow, Jess, a consultant in child psychology at Northampton, and his three sons.

PC Robertson
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme

[Brit.med.J., 1986,293,1447; Lancet, 1987,1,56]

(Volume VIII, page 452)

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