Lives of the fellows

Michael Dowling Turner

b.26 October 1927 d.7 November 2002
MB ChB Bristol(1950) MRCP(1954) MD(1959) PhD Rochester(1964) FRCP(1974)

Michael Dowling Turner was chairman of gastroenterology at the University of Rochester, New York, and the first holder of the Segal-Watson professorship of medicine/gastroenterology at that university. Born in Weston-super-Mare, England, he was an only child. After attending King's School, Bruton, he went to medical school at the University of Bristol, where he qualified MB ChB in 1950, receiving gold medals in medicine and paediatrics.

After serving as a house physician at the United Bristol Hospitals, he became a senior house officer in clinical pathology at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

In September of 1954, he became medical registrar and tutor in medicine at the University of London, Hammersmith Hospital, where he worked closely with Sheila Sherlock in hepatology. In 1957 he went to the University of Rocherster, New York, on a MRC fellowship. He worked with Leon Miller and Harry Segal at the Strong Memorial Hospital and went on to obtain a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Rochester.

In 1960 he returned to England as lecturer in medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in the department by Sheila Sherlock.

In 1963 he accepted the position of chairman of gastroenterology at the University of Rochester, New York, and in 1972 was appointed as the first holder of the Segal-Watson professorship of medicine/gastroenterology.

He moved to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1977, as chief of medicine at the VA Medical Center and rotating chairman of the department of medicine.

He retired from academic medicine in 1985 and moved to Venice, Florida, where he established himself as a specialist in gastroenterology. He remained in active practice until his death following a heart attack while visiting friends and former colleagues in Vermont.

He travelled extensively and in later years of his career developed a keen interest in mercury toxicity in humans. He spent months studying communities in Ecuador, Peru, and Samoa, where one of the staples of diet was tuna fish and helped determine what levels of mercury were acceptable in tuna and swordfish prior to canning for human consumption.

He was recognised by his colleagues as a great teacher with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of medicine. Yet he was, in many ways, shy and retiring about his accomplishments and would seldom comment on them. He had a gift for languages and was a wonderful host and great raconteur - ably aided and abetted by his wife, Sylvia, an equally wonderful cook.

He is survived by his wife, four daughters, and one son (an ENT surgeon) as well as eleven grandchildren.

Thomas A O'Malley

(Volume XI, page 586)

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