Lives of the fellows

Kenneth Mori Chalmers

b.18 February 1921 d.2 January 2002
MB ChB Edin(1943) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1972)

Kenneth Moir Chalmers was a consultant physician at the North Tees General Hospital. He was born the son of a Scottish medical missionary at Ajmer in India, where he spent his early childhood. In 1927 he returned to Scotland and was educated in Inverness and Edinburgh. He went on to study medicine at Edinburgh, graduating ahead of schedule with a wartime fast stream in January 1943.

After graduation he was house officer then registrar to Sir Stanley Davidson [Munk's Roll, Vol. VII, p.136] at the Western General in Edinburgh, and subsequently medical registrar at Inverness. From 1945 to 1947 he served in the RAMC. He became senior registrar to the Dundee chest clinic in 1948. At the of age 29 he was appointed consultant chest physician at Stockton, Sedgefield and Hartlepool, and moved to Teeside in February 1951.

Together with his friend and respiratory colleague Tony Spriggs he was an early advocate of outpatient chemotherapy for tuberculosis, a concept that initially faced surprisingly fierce opposition but within a year or two became the accepted norm. Other specialty interests included promoting the appropriate use of corticosteroids in treating severe asthma. Later, in collaboration with laboratory geneticist Connie Clark, he was interested in using results of cytogenetic analysis of pleural fluid for the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

In the early years at Teesside his specialty covered a population of around 350,000 and included children as well as adult patients. As the department of medicine evolved, in addition to his specialty area he undertook a full share of the workload of general internal medicine. His main activities centred at first on Stockton and Thornaby Hospital and Sedgefield General Hospital, then from 1975 onwards at the newly opened North Tees General Hospital.

At North Tees he played a very significant role in developing the services of the new hospital, and educating and training junior doctors in medicine. In innumerable ways he showed kindness, support and encouragement to his trainees and to his younger consultant colleagues. He held several important administrative posts and often found himself in gentlemanly opposition to local councillors on various health committees, having to defend professional standards against political whims. He retired in 1984.

Throughout his life he was keenly interested in sport, having been an accomplished rugby player as a young man. While at Teesside he was able to combine pleasure with duty as medical officer to the local race courses. In his later years, sadly, his retirement was marred by ill health. He developed bacterial endocarditis and twice underwent aortic valve replacement, but despite then having restricted physical capacity he was able to relax with his wife at Menton in France where his family had regularly holidayed for many years.

One of Kenneth Chalmers' trademarks was that he always wore something bright red, a signal of his style and humour, and perhaps also of a seam of socialism in his dedication to the population he served.

He leaves a wife Mary (also a doctor) whom he met at Edinburgh, two daughters and a son.

D Carr

[Brit.med.J.,2002,324,741]

(Volume XI, page 101)

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