Lives of the fellows

Henry Owen West

b.20 January 1885 d.20 November 1941
LMSSA(1909) MB BS Lond(1909) MD Lond(1912) DPH Lond(1916) MRCP(1914) FRCP(1936)

Henry West, the eldest of the eleven children of the Rev. John Oliver West, rector of St. Philip’s, Bristol, and his wife, Mary Ann, née Thomas, had already passed the inter B.Sc, at Bristol University when he entered the Medical School of King’s College, London, in 1904. Between 1920 and 1913 he held the posts of house surgeon to Professor Albert Carless, and senior resident at the Royal Chest and the Seamen’s Hospitals before serving as assistant to Dr Gordon Pugh, then medical superintendent of Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children, Carshalton. The interest begun there in non-pulmonary tuberculosis led to his appointment as tuberculosis officer for Kent.

In 1917 he joined the R.A.M.C., but was invalided out in 1919 because of malaria contracted in Salonika, and continued his work for children in the post of medical superintendent to the Princess Mary Hospital, Margate. In the following twelve years, during which he gained an increasing reputation in the treatment of surgical tuberculosis, he learnt his first lessons in administration that were applied with outstanding success at the Archway Hospital, then at St. Giles Hospital, and finally at the Queen Mary’s Hospital, Carshalton, where he succeeded his old chief.

Yet, at heart a clinician, he took special pleasure in his arrangements for teaching sessions for lecturers and students of King’s College at St. Giles Hospital. No doubt the great physical strain and anxiety he suffered in 1940 in organising the evacuation of two blocks at Queen Mary’s Hospital, just before the enormous explosion of a delayed-action bomb, played a part in his death from cerebral haemorrhage at the age of fifty-six.

West all his life had strong religious beliefs; they had made him a leader in the Student Christian Movement at King’s College, and in his practice they influenced his sense of responsibility. His grave expression and his direct gaze through steel-rimmed spectacles were awe-inspiring to young residents, until they learnt that the discipline he expected in work was but a fraction of that which he imposed on himself, and that underneath this exterior lay humour and sympathy, and the capacity to encourage their relaxations in games as he had enjoyed hockey and cricket in his student days.

In 1913 he married Anne Fitchett. They had three sons.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J. 1941, 2, 830-31; Lancet, 1941, 2, 717-18 (p).]

(Volume V, page 443)

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