Lives of the fellows

Alan Donaldson Cameron

b.15 July 1925 d.4 April 2000
BSc Otago(1948) MB ChB(1952) MRCP Edin(1958) MRCP(1959) MRACP(1961) FRACP(1968) FRCP(1978)

Alan Cameron was a general physician and gastroenterologist in Auckland, New Zealand. He was born in Dunedin, into a medical family. His Scottish mother was an Edinburgh medical graduate and his great uncle, William Ledingham Christie was the first medical graduate from the Otago University. His father, a veteran of the First World War returned to New Zealand with his war bride to become the first general manager of Farmers Mutual Insurance, a nationwide institution.

Alan was educated at John McGlashen College and Otago University. He graduated with a BSc in 1948 and qualified MB ChB in 1952. Being a 'local', and with allegiance to both the science and medical faculties he was a well-known and popular figure often to be seen driving in the university precincts in his 'pride and joy', a three wheel Morgan car. An executive member of the student union, he is also remembered as the kilted highland pipe major leading the capping band on its annual pilgrimage along George Street.

A keen deerstalker and sportsman, he played social rugby at University and was an accomplished skier. After gaining three Otago University blues, he became New Zealand Universities Downhill Ski Champion in 1951.

At medical school, the basic courses were attended by students from a variety of disciplines and it was in the physiology classes that he came to know Josie Caughey, an Auckland girl attending the home science school. After graduation he moved to Auckland to take up an appointment as house surgeon with the Auckland Hospital Board.

At about that time he made the 'supreme sacrifice', selling his first love - the Morgan, to enable purchase of an engagement ring. Josie and he were married in 1953 and lived in Auckland during his successive appointments as house surgeon and medical registrar at Auckland Hospital.

Later postgraduate experience in the UK led to his membership of the Edinburgh College of Physicians in 1958 and of the London College the following year.

In London he was a senior house officer at the Hammersmith Postgraduate Medical School and later, during 1959 to 1960, registrar in the department of gastroenterology at the Central Middlesex Hospital. There he worked with Sir Francis Avery Jones, the doyen of British gastroenterology, who was sufficiently impressed to invite him to join his permanent staff. Though tempted, family ties brought them home to Auckland where Alan was appointed consultant physician (the youngest) to Green Lane Hospital. He also established a private practice in gastroenterology and for a couple of years worked in the thyroid clinic, Auckland Hospital - an experience which he later said had helped remind him that there were organs in the body other than the gut!

He became a member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1961 and was granted the fellowship in 1968.

From this base he pioneered the new speciality of gastroenterology in Auckland and New Zealand. He established with surgeon Sealey Wood the first endoscopy service in the city. With his physician colleagues, Gordon Nicholson and Cliff Jones, he founded the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology and was elected Foundation President in the early 1960s. He continued his private practice after he retired from his hospital post in 1989 and during that time was medical director of the Mercy Hospital.

Throughout his career Alan gave freely of his time in assisting several allied voluntary societies. For some years on the executive of the Auckland branch of the NZ Cancer Society, he was president-elect at the time of his death. In the late 1960s with surgeon Tony Hunter he became patron of the newly formed patient support group, the Auckland Ostomy Society, and in 1972 became sole patron of the newly formed Federation of New Zealand Societies. In 1998, his 25 years of association with this organisation was marked by a presentation at which he was described as a 'caring and friendly person who made a lasting impact on the lives of those around him'.

Josie and Alan and their close-knit family of three children lived life to the full with active involvement in the Auckland scene and memorable holidays together at Taupo and Whangapoua Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. With Alan's example, skiing became a family passion with trips to Ruapehu, Coronet Peak and Wanaka. There they re-established links with the families of Alan's two South Island sisters, Mayford Dawson and Alison Roxburgh.

Devastated in the previous September, by the unexpected and sudden death (in her sleep) of his dear wife, Josie, Alan resolved to cope and did just that. With the encouragement of the family he honed his cooking skills and maintained Josie's high standards in the house and garden. His golfing involvement, at the Middlemore Club, which had been threatened by an arthritic ankle from an old skiing injury, was restored much to his delight, after skillful surgery.

A high point in his rehabilitation was undoubtedly the purchase of a gleaming red 1961 (four wheel) vintage Morgan motorcar which was proudly displayed to family and friends. With memories of past times, he was planning a trip to the UK, France and Italy, and in characteristic fashion was grappling with Italian lessons. He was on his way to a meeting of the tour group on the day that he died.

Alan Cameron will be remembered as a skilled physician and gastroenterologist, a cheerful and courteous man with a twinkle in his eye and a great capacity for friendship. He was surrounded by a warm and loving family and leaves three children, Peter, a doctor, Philippa, a landscape designer, Hamish, an architect, and seven grandchildren to honour his memory.

H K Ibbertson

[Proc.R.Coll.Physicians.Edinb. 2000,30:269]

(Volume XI, page 93)

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