Lives of the fellows

Frederick Thomas Shannon

b.18 September 1927 d.31 January 1999
CNZM(1998) MB ChB Otago(1951) MRACP(1955) MRCP(1956) FRACP(1964) FRCP(1973)

Frederick Thomas Shannon was a distinguished paediatrician in New Zealand. He spent his early life in Steward Island and Temuka before entering Otago Medical School. He graduated in 1951. While at University he was awarded a blue for fencing. He worked as a house surgeon and registrar at Christchurch Hospital, before going to London for further training in paediatrics.

He returned to Christchurch in 1957 and took up the position of visiting paediatrician to the North Canterbury Hospital Board. He was the first paediatrician in Christchurch and continued as the only paediatrician until 1965. During this time he served the community as a consultant paediatrician in private practice, as well as being on the visiting medical staff. He became head of paediatrics in 1962 and chairman of paediatric services in 1968 and continued in this role until 1984. During this period he was responsible for the development of paediatrics in Christchurch, increasing staff numbers and helping improve neonatal and general paediatric services in Christchurch Hospital.

In 1972 he was appointed to the foundation chair of paediatrics at the Christchurch Clinical School, a position he held until his early retirement in 1990. He was deputy dean of the Christchurch School of Medicine for 15 years and was acting dean in 1981.

He was a member of several University committees and was a member of the Christchurch Clinical School council.

At a national level, Shannon was involved in a wide range of activities. He was a member of the New Zealand committee of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and was a senior paediatric examiner for several years. He was a past president of the Paediatric Society of New Zealand and was a member of several major government committees on child health. He held several lectureships, including commonwealth visiting professor to Fiji and Samoa in 1973, the Glaxo fellowship in 1976, and in 1981 he was a member of the official New Zealand paediatric delegation to the People’s Republic of China.

Shannon was very active in research. In his early years he participated in studies on juvenile arthritis. Subsequently he became interested in childhood urinary tract infections and vesico-ureteric reflux. His main research endeavour, however, was the establishment of the Christchurch child development study. This internationally regarded study investigated the impact of social, demographic and economic factors on child health. Shannon was the director of this study from 1976 to 1990.

He had a major interest in medical education and was highly regarded, both as an undergraduate and post-graduate teacher. Several registrars have become paediatricians and academic leaders in their own right. He was regarded as being a superb clinician and was frequently consulted by colleagues in the unravelling of difficult health problems facing children. Not withstanding his major involvement in administrative, academic and research matters, Shannon regarded himself as a paediatrician first and foremost.

Despite an extraordinarily busy professional life, he made time to spend with his family. His greatest joy was going to their holiday house at Mitchells on Lake Brunner. He was a highly skilled and dedicated fly fisherman who found great solace on the riverbank or beside the lake, usually in the company of his two sons or various friends.

In 1998 Shannon was honoured by his country for his enormous contribution to paediatrics and became a companion of the New Zealand order of merit (CNZM).

G D Abbott

(Volume XI, page 513)

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