Lives of the fellows

Arthur Lewis Wyman

b.31 March 1913 d.18 January 2003
MB BS Lond(1935) MD(1940) MRCP(1940) FRCP(1970)

Arthur Wyman dedicated his life to the National Health Service and his patients. He had no private patients.

He was born in Bloomsbury of a Russian father and a Ukrainian mother. His father was a tailor. Arthur was educated locally at the Davenant Foundation School, Whitechapel Road and won many prizes. He obtained a place at London University and started his career as a medical student at University College Hospital. He qualified as a doctor in 1935. His first job was in general practice in the Waterloo Road, but he became increasingly interested in hospital medicine and went to the Sheffield Hospital and then to London Mile End Hospital where, in 1942, he met his wife Renate who was a young nurse just starting at the hospital. They were married for 57 years.

At the onset of the war, he joined the army and served with distinction in Algeria, Egypt, and the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy. He was twice mentioned in dispatches and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was a most modest man and during the many years that we worked together at the New Charing Cross Hospital I never heard him mention anything about war service. He was about the least conceited and most reticent person with whom I have come in contact and this in itself makes it difficult to write as much about his medical achievements as he deserved.

He was medical superintendent at Fulham Hospital from 1950 to 1973, until it was closed and the site taken over by Charing Cross Hospital. When he obtained his whole time consultant physician appointment at the Fulham Hospital his title was physician-superintendent. Nine half days a week were spent on clinical work and two half days on medical administration. He was aided by a hospital secretary, under the supervision of the group secretary. There were 384 beds at Fulham at the time of his appointment. Arthur Wyman was full-time and the only other physician was part-time.

Arthur Wyman had qualified in 1935. In 1940 he obtained his MD and membership of the College, but he did not become a Fellow of the College until 1970. With the start of the NHS, the running was mainly undertaken by the London part-time teaching hospital consultants. They were displaced by the academic departments that rose up throughout the country. Consultants in non-teaching hospitals tended to be considered by some almost as second class consultants.

Arthur Wyman became attached to Charing Cross Hospital more as a matter of chance, when this teaching hospital moved from its original site to Fulham. He was now a full-time physician paired up with myself in a hospital filled with academics. We had about 25 beds between us, in place of the 200 or more beds under Arthur's control before the invasion of Charing Cross Hospital and the medical school. Arthur took all this in his stride. He never complained about his altered role. He was an extremely good, popular teacher and in this sphere was characteristically modest, although the students fully appreciated his worth and the firm attracted more students than any other in the hospital.

Arthur Wyman considered himself to be the last of the general physicians and certainly by the time he died, it had become increasingly difficult for a general practitioner to get the help of a hospital general physician. The need has been bitterly felt by many wise general practitioners.

The history of Fulham Hospital has been recounted superbly by Arthur Wyman who would have made a great historian if he had followed that path instead of medicine. Arthur Wyman ends his history of Fulham Hospital as follows: 'In January 1973, Fulham Hospital finally closed its doors, and the patients were transferred to the new hospital. On Tuesday 22nd May of that year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II formerly opened the New Charing Cross Hospital (Fulham) thereafter the old buildings, the pride of the guardians of 1884, were demolished bit by bit and only an odd corner recalls the humble past, as does the crotchety Old Fulham inhabitant who persists in calling the sparkling new edifice 'Fulham Hospital' or even 'Infirmary'. New allegiances and new loyalties have been forged and no one now can regret the changes that have taken place. ...It all turned out for the best, and the optimists were justified.'

Arthur Wyman was always interested in the history of medicine and made numerous contributions to the Journal of Medical Biography, including one on Anton Chekhov, writer and physician. He has also written a number of superb fillers in the British Medical Journal. One entitled 'On first name terms' ends 'I do not really mind being called Arthur now that I have got used to it. It is better than being called dad by a total stranger'. In another article, about a holiday in Provence where he and Renate stayed at Arles, he described a bust of a grey bearded man apparently deep in thought. On the pedestal, the inscription read 'Docteur J Urpar 1857-1915 - the city of Arles and his grateful patients'. This was published at the time that the politicians with their faithful medical lackeys used the problems of paediatric surgery at Bristol, the retention of organs at the Alderhay Hospital and the murderous Dr Shipman to whip up more indignation against the medical profession so that they could be blamed for any short comings and not the government of the day. As Arthur Wyman states, 'It was a world away from the kindly caring vocation I though I was part of for so many years.'

Arthur was a man of great intelligence, complete integrity, humour and kindness, which he showed to patients and colleagues. His wife and son, who is a doctor, as well as his daughter, will remember him with great pride.

P B S Fowler

(Volume XI, page 647)

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