Lives of the fellows

Paul Szekely

b.16 August 1910 d.15 November 1985
MD Prague(1934) MB BS Durh(1946) MD(1947) MRCP(1970) FRCP(1971)

Paul Szekely was the son of a Czech physician, Vojtech Szekely. He studied medicine in Prague, where he graduated MD in 1934. After graduation he worked in the medical clinic at the University of Prague until 1938, when he moved to Paris. There he spent two years at the cardiac clinic of the Hôpital Broussais, and when France was invaded he escaped through Bordeaux to England.

In 1941 Paul Szekely became house physician to the medical and cardiovascular department of Newcastle General Hospital where he came under the influence of William Hume, later Sir William [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.206], who encouraged his career and became a close family friend. Paul was medical registrar at the Newcastle General from 1942-48. In 1948 he was appointed consultant cardiologist to the regional cardiovascular centre of Newcastle General Hospital and he remained in this post until his retirement in 1975, when he was appointed honorary consultant cardiologist.

Szekely was a highly respected and widely consulted clinical cardiologist with a particular interest in arrhythmias, rheumatic heart disease, and heart disease in pregnancy. He first developed his interest in research in Prague and later in Paris, where he worked with Laubry, who became a lifelong friend. It is for his contribution to the care and understanding of cardiac disease in pregnant women that he will be long remembered. His interest dated from 1946 when he developed a close working relationship with the obstetrician Linton Snaith. Over the succeeding 30 years they shared the management of a large number of affected women, and their experience formed the basis for a joint work: Heart disease and pregnancy, Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1974, now a standard textbook. Paul followed up the patients he had seen during pregnancy over the rest of their lives, and not surprisingly they were devoted to him and were greatly distressed when he retired in 1975. Although at that time he virtually gave up clinical work, he continued to be consulted by his colleagues and his last papers on his favourite topic were published in 1985. He participated in research work, and in investigations for the Committee on the Safety of Medicines, until the end.

Paul Szekely was liked by all those who came into contact with him. He seemed to be personally interested in everyone and his gentle charm and unfailing courtesy were always evident. He was a fluent linguist in French, German and English, and thoroughly enjoyed travel. He got particular pleasure from his several visits to India whose culture, history and food he relished. In his earlier days he was an accomplished skier and tennis player, and in later years he turned rather reluctantly to golf but preferred to avoid hitting the ball when accompanying his wife round the course. His other interests included archaeology, opera and art. He was a member of the Society of Antiquaries and a friend of the Laing Art Gallery.

In 1941 he met his future wife Peggy Lynch, daughter of a journalist, when she was also working at Newcastle General Hospital. Their subsequent marriage undoubtedly formed the cornerstone on which he built the rest of his full and rewarding life.

DG Julian

[Brit.med.J., 1986,292,67]

(Volume VIII, page 493)

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