Lives of the fellows

Patrick David Clifford Kinmont

b.28 February 1916 d.29 March 2002
MBE(1946) MB BS Lond(1939) MRCS LRCP(1939) MD(1946) MRCP(1946) FRCP(1965)

Patrick Kinmont was a dermatologist at Nottingham Medical School. He was born in Newark-on-Trent, the son of a local general practitioner. He was educated at Epsom College and King’s College, London, where he excelled at rugby and cricket but, in those difficult times, he did not let these activities distract him from his medical studies. He qualified in 1939.

He was one of a generation of doctors whose early medical careers were dictated not by their own career ambitions or inclinations but by the needs of a country facing war. It was not until after discharge from the RAMC that he was able to restart his studies and fulfil his ambition to become a dematologist.

Patrick told the engaging story of what happened when he took the oral part of the membership examination in 1946. The examining board consisted of several distinguished physicians, one of whom unwittingly asked him how he would manage a case of typhoid. Patrick went into great detail but what he said was not to the liking of his interrogator who, together with one or two other examiners, began some hostile questioning. The chairman however called a halt pronouncing “Gentlemen, there is only one person in this room who has looked after an outbreak of typhoid and that is Dr Kinmont. You have passed.” He alone was aware of Patrick’s wartime achievements.

Having qualified, Patrick joined the Territorial Army and, with the outbreak of war, the RAMC. He saw service in Scotland, Egypt and Palestine before being dispatched to Greece in 1940 where, in 1941, he was captured. He and thousands of other soldiers became prisoners of war and were forced to walk for many weeks through the length of Greece to Germany. Many died on the way and Patrick did not endear himself to his captors by attributing a majority of the deaths to starvation. Eventually they ended up at Stalag 18a where, at the age of 25, Kinmont found himself the senior medical officer. In 1943 he had to deal with an epidemic of typhoid. The skill with which he did so brought the outbreak rapidly under control and saved many thousands of lives. For this he was awarded an MBE and, as it turned out, the MRCP.

In all he spent four and a half years in the prisoner of war camp - an experience which made him declare that never in his life did he want to play another hand of bridge. In December 1944 he and many other inmates narrowly escaped death from ‘friendly’ American bombing and in May 1945 the camp was liberated by just three members of the SAS. The fact that the camp commandant was allowed to walk free and back to his family was attributed to Patrick’s firm intervention and humanitarianism. Despite the adversity of those years, he also developed a lifelong friendship with the German medical counterpart. Perhaps influenced by these wartime experiences Patrick was an excellent linguist and was fluent in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and later Irish and Arabic.

In 1946, having returned to civilian life, Patrick started training as a dermatologist and was awarded his MD. In 1950 he married Elizabeth and took her to the west of Ireland to introduce her to the pleasures of fly fishing, a hobby he enjoyed the whole of his life. They moved to Derby when he was appointed consultant and in 1951 they had a son, John, and in 1953 a daughter Pippa.

In 1965, whilst still in Derby, he overcame a severe heart attack to return to full activities which included a patient workload which was prodigious. Despite this setback in 1967 he undertook a world lecture tour and in 1973 moved to the new medical school in Nottingham.

In the field of dermatology he will be most remembered for the work he did on pruritus and for the studies carried out, often with his close friend and fellow war veteran Ian McCallum, on the cutaneous manifestations of Crohn’s disease and carcinoma of the eyelid margins.

After he retired in 1979 Patrick spent two years in Kuwait and in 1983 he became involved with a children’s charity known since 1990 as EveryChild which supports over 3,000 families worldwide. He was always a tireless worker and even up to the day before his death was in the midst of organizing charity and parish activities.

Patrick’s charm never failed. Whatever the difficulties he appeared unflappable and his patients never ceased to be won over by his quiet authoritative manner.

B R Allen

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(Volume XI, page 320)

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