Lives of the fellows

Oliver Frank Thomas

b.6 October 1899 d.17 October 1959
DPH Liverp(1926) MRCS LRCP(1924) MRCP(1931) FRCP(1953)

Oliver Frank Thomas was born in Carmarthen to Oliver Frank Thomas, a sergeant in the Royal Artillery, and his wife, May Mary Ann. After appointments at Mill Road Infirmary and Highfield Sanatorium, Liverpool, he was, from 1927 to 1932, senior resident at Broadgreen Sanatorium, and succeeded Dr McIntyre as its medical superintendent until it was bombed and he was transferred to Fazakerley Sanatorium, renamed Aintree Hospital in 1948. There he showed himself to be a dedicated tuberculosis specialist, a pioneer in artificial pneumothorax, who was also quick to recognise the advantages of surgical intervention. He was one of those chosen by the Medical Research Council to conduct the clinical trials of the modern drugs and antibiotics, and had the satisfaction of seeing their results in the reduction of the previously long waiting lists for admission. Alas he was himself to succumb to an untreated lesion which brought a fatal haemoptysis.

The success of the Mass X-ray Survey in Liverpool in 1959 owed much to his allocation of beds for the treatment of those found to have active diseases. He had welcomed the National Health Service as an opportunity to develop and expand the chest service, and with Morriston Davis and Robert Coope formed an active triumvirate of the Regional Hospital Board’s Tuberculosis Advisory Committee appointed to reorganise it in the Liverpool region. Later, however, he was to become concerned and critical about the lay inroads in its administration.

Thomas was vice-president of the section of diseases of the chest and tuberculosis of the British Medical Association annual meeting at Liverpool in 1950, and a member of its Tuberculosis Group Committee, 1954-9. For many years he was an active member of the North of England Tuberculosis Association and the Joint Tuberculosis Council.

He had a quizzical sense of humour that lightened his lectures on tuberculosis at the Medical School of Liverpool University, and an enthusiasm that stimulated loyalty in his junior staff, many of whom advanced to important posts in the chest and public health services. With a great respect for authority he hated humbug and ostentation. Outside his hospital work and his family he had few interests, but was a kindly host to his colleagues, who often sought his opinion on difficult cases. In 1933 he married Eira Mary Gwynne, the daughter of Major John William Nesbitt. They had two daughters.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1959, 2, 891; Lancet, 1959, 2, 797.]

(Volume V, page 409)

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