Lives of the fellows

Ronald George Simpson

b.22 September 1919 d.25 July 1995
MB ChB Aberd(1943) MD(1949) MRCP(1949) MRCP Edin(1963) FRCP Edin(1969) FRCP(1975)

‘Ronnie’, as he was affectionately known, was one of the founding fathers of geriatric care in Scotland. He was born in Aberdeen, the son of George Haworth Simpson, a businessman. He was a pupil at Aberdeen Grammar School and went on to Aberdeen Medical School. After holding junior hospital posts he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1944 to 1947 as a captain and graded specialist in venereology. He served mainly in India, where he accumulated material on lymphogranuloma venereum for his MD thesis. His training posts were in the Aberdeen General Hospitals and it was in the Glenburn wing of Woodend Hospital that he developed an interest in the care of the elderly chronically sick.

Geriatric care was fostered in Scotland by Noah Morris [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.297], much as Marjorie Warren had done in England. The Eastern Regional Hospital Board was forward looking and, chiefly at the instigation of Sir Ian Hill [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.262], appointed O Taylor Brown as the first consultant geriatrician in Scotland. In 1954 geriatric care was divided between Perth and Dundee, and Ronald Simpson was appointed consultant geriatrician to the geriatric unit at Perth.

At an early stage he came to realize that in-patient care and consultative outpatient clinics did not meet all the needs of the elderly sick and in 1956 he founded the first geriatric day clinic in the UK. From humble beginnings in a small room at Burghmuir Hospital, accommodating only four patients, the day clinic went from strength to strength and was soon copied widely. Its successor at Perth Royal Infirmary was appropriately named the Simpson day clinic. Ronnie ran his unit in a highly individualistic manner and he had minor eccentricities, but he endeared himself to his patients, his hospital staff and especially to the general practitioners in Perthshire to whom he gave an excellent service.

The British Geriatric Society wanted to establish regional committees throughout Great Britain which would deal with local matters, while national business would be dealt with by the parent body in London. In 1960 Ronnie Simpson invited the Scottish physicians specializing in geriatric medicine to Perth to consider setting up a Scottish branch of the British Geriatric Society as Scotland had a separate health service from England. Ronnie was appointed secretary of the branch which became, largely due to his meticulous hard work, an important factor in Scottish geriatrics. Links were established with the Home Office and the Health Department and other bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing, Scotland. Regular meetings were held with the CMO and a programme of bi-annual clinical meetings was organized. In a word, Ronnies work as secretary from 1960 to 1968 allowed geriatric medicine in Scotland to develop along Scottish lines and comparatively quick progress was made in the evolution of a national comprehensive geriatric service. Ronnie was a founder member of the Scottish Society of Physicians and a member of the International Society of Internal medicine. He contributed some forty articles to the leading medical journals and to the Nursing Mirror. His most important contributions were in hypothermia in the elderly. He married Gertrude Susan (née Fowlie) in 1944 and they had one son and two daughters. He will be remembered in Perth for his extramural activities; he had a wide interest in sport and coached in football and boxing, jogged regularly, swam and played badminton. He was president of the Scottish and Perth County Cricket Clubs and played for local teams. Ronnie was widely read and a member of the Egypt Exploration Society. He was an aficionado of Elvis Presley, some of whose quieter tunes were played at his secular funeral.

Kenneth Lowe

[Brit.med.J., 1996,312,245]

(Volume X, page 449)

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