Lives of the fellows

Benjamin Stewart Rose

b.8 June 1923 d.29 August 1998
MB ChB Birm(1944) MRCS LRCP Lond(1944) DCH(1948) MRCP(1949) MRACP(1969) FRACP(1973) FRCP(1976)

Benjamin Rose was a specialist in rheumatic diseases in New Zealand. He was born in Halesowen in the West Midlands. He was educated at Clifton College and entered Birmingham Medical School as war clouds gathered in 1939. He graduated at the young age of 20 and, after six months at Wolverhampton General Hospital, enlisted in the RNVR in 1944. After VE Day and a tropical medicine course in Liverpool he was transferred to the East Indies and Pacific fleets. A year's general medical service in Singapore included a tropical appointment at the Navy's Asiatic Hospital.

On discharge from the Navy in 1948 Ben decided to specialize as a paediatrician. As a paediatric and medical registrar at Wolverhampton General Hospital he gained his diploma in child health. The London MRCP followed in 1949 and a step up to senior RMO at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary. There he met Flora Macdonald, a paediatric house physician, and they were married in 1950. The following year he was appointed senior paediatric registrar in the professorial unit of Leeds University.

In these post war years in the UK there were too many senior registrars for too few senior appointments. This led Ben to look towards Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He applied for and was offered a specialist appointment at the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Rotorua, New Zealand. Three months visiting rheumatology units in the UK helped Ben prepare for what were early days in the developing specialty in New Zealand.

Ben's full time work at Queen Elizabeth Hospital began in 1953. Three years later he succeeded Stan Wallace as superintendent. This involved administrative as well as clinical responsibility for the development of the rheumatic and cerebral palsy units. A consultative service was provided to neighbouring hospitals in Palmerston North, Wanganui, New Plymouth and Hamilton.

The high incidence of rheumatism and gout in the Maori population fascinated Ben and led to several published surveys. He was given honorary membership of the Italian Society of Rheumatology and helped produce the Rome criteria for the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. He was appointed counsellor to the International League Against Rheumatism, foundation vice-president of the South East Asia and Pacific League Against Rheumatism, and a member of the WHO expert advisory panel on chronic degenerative diseases.

In 1971 Ben accepted an appointment at Waikato Hospital as specialist physician in general medicine and rheumatic diseases which he continued until his retirement in 1988. Ben was recognised as an academic clinician with an encyclopaedic knowledge which he shared in a modest friendly manner that endeared him to all. However his interests were wide ranging - extending to history, philosophy, politics and classical music. He was also a family man and in retirement moved to Auckland to be near his three sons and their children.

Ben died suddenly, leaving the memory of a man who advanced medical knowledge and understanding in his field, but was not confined by specialization.

Graeme Campbell

(Volume XI, page 489)

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