Lives of the fellows

Andrew James King

b.27 September 1942 d.30 October 2001
BSc hons Edin(1964) MB ChB(1967) MRCP(1971) FRCP Edin(1984) FRCP(1997)

Andrew King was a consultant chest physician in Bradford. He was renowned for his refreshingly down-to-earth approach to medical matters and life in general. His use of clear language, using as few words as necessary, was the product of a highly intelligent mind that was never 'on show'.

He was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, and to the end of his days he remained proud of his Yorkshire roots, sometimes giving his nationality as 'Yorkshireman'. He attended Ratcliffe College in Leicestershire. Fellow alumni usually referred to him as 'easily the brightest boy in the school', a description he always attempted to refute. The fact remains that he was able to absorb, analyse and interpret information at an impressive speed.

As a medical student at Edinburgh University he performed well but was impatient with any lecturer regarded as verbose or under-prepared. He took an honours degree in physiology and this paved the way to an appointment (a year after medical qualification) as a lecturer in the department of medicine at Edinburgh University. During this time he published papers on gas transfer and acid-base balance. The experience he gained over four years in respiratory physiology underpinned much of his subsequent work as a chest physician.

In 1972 he returned to his beloved home county as a senior registrar for the Leeds region. His first year was spent at Bradford Royal Infirmary. He soon developed a liking for the city, its people and its hospitals. He said that the area suited him ideally and he was delighted to be appointed as consultant physician to the Bradford hospitals just three years later.

The post was in general medicine with a special interest in chest diseases, based mainly at St. Luke's Hospital. Throughout his time as a consultant he retained his commitment to general medicine (he was a skilled diagnostician), but the main component of his work was in the management of respiratory diseases. His considerable knowledge of lung physiology enabled him to expand and develop the use of diagnostic respiratory function tests. At the same time he was always willing to explain the limitations of these investigations.

Sustained by his never-failing interest in human nature and by his excellent memory, he carried a heavy out-patient load at the chest clinic for many years. He took a full part in the management of tuberculosis in Bradford, a city with more than its fair share of the disease.

He was not keen on hospital politics, having little patience with lengthy meetings and circular arguments. He once described a meeting with hospital managers as 'like swimming in a rice pudding: however hard you try you never seem to get anywhere'. On the other hand, his personal relations with hospital staff of all levels were good and his views (however trenchant) were listened to with respect. He liked teaching students, provided that they did not want to be 'spoon-fed'.

In 1987 he developed symptoms of serious coronary artery disease. His life was preserved by the surgical skill of Sir Magdi Yacoub, but inevitably Andy's ability to work was impaired by progressive tiredness. He struggled on for as long as was physically possible before taking early retirement on medical grounds in 1992. Sadly, and not long into his retirement, he developed carcinoma of the jaw. His last few years were overshadowed by distressing disability, which he endured with extraordinary courage. He was fortunate indeed in enjoying the devoted support and care of his wife Rita (an ex-nursing sister) and his three sons.

Andy was keen on steam trains and was lucky to have the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway nearby. He also loved messing about in boats and he valued his holidays on the Norfolk Broads.

Richard Woodhead

(Volume XI, page 319)

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