Lives of the fellows

William Greer Manderson

b.22 May 1919 d.22 June 2002
MB ChB Glasg(1942) FRFPS Glasg(1948) MRCP(1951) MD(1959) MRCP Glasg(1962) FRCP Glasg(1964) FRCP(1970) Hon LLD Strathclyde(1988)

William Manderson combined the classic attributes of a successful general physician with the remarkable flair of an innovator of medical services in a new university. He was born in Glasgow, the son of a physiotherapist who was an early exponent of what is now termed sports medicine and specialised in treating the injuries of professional footballers. He was a wartime student at the University of Glasgow, graduating in 1942. After his residency year he joined the RAF medical branch and served as a squadron medical officer in the Far East (Air Command South East Asia) for the latter part of the war.

On discharge from the services he took the first steps to his chosen career with junior training posts in the English Health Authorities but in 1950 returned north of the Border, as senior medical registrar to the Royal Alexandra Infirmary, Paisley. Under the expert and urbane tutelage of the unit chief, Hugh Conway, he spent seven productive years mastering the craft of general internal medicine. As was usual for ambitious young Scots doctors at that time, he obtained his membership of the two Royal Colleges of Physicians and laid the foundations for his MD degree. His training was completed in Glasgow Royal Infirmary and he was appointed consultant physician to that institution in 1959.

His expertise in general medicine was unquestioned and sought-after. He established a very successful private practice whilst retaining the academic commitment expected in a major teaching hospital. His research interests were eclectic and catholic, ranging from diseases of the heart to the liver, but carrying the investigation of disordered carbohydrate metabolism as the common thread. An interest in diabetes – the supreme multi-faceted specialty for the astute general physician – was sustained for the rest of his working life.

All these activities can be viewed as the natural progression of a conventional professional career, but they actually ran in parallel with a more novel development. In 1961 his old friend Sir Samuel Curran invited him to organise the delivery of a medical service to the University of Strathclyde, first of the new Scottish universities. Having considered the matter, and mindful of the close physical proximity of the Royal Infirmary to the new campus, Manderson addressed the brief by basing the service upon his own hospital, recruiting both consultant colleagues and juniors to undertake regular medical clinics within Strathclyde. The arrangement had benefits for both parties to the transaction: students enjoyed swift and straightforward access to all the clinical resources of a teaching hospital whilst the clinicians, especially those in the training grades, had the novel advantage of exposure to the particular health problems encountered in undergraduates who came from many different countries to study in Glasgow. Distinctly different from the usual university health service model, the merits of a Manderson’s design were warmly appreciated by a grateful university, which gave him a personal chair in student health and honoured him with a doctorate honoris causa on his retirement.

Beyond his professional career, Manderson was distinguished by his sporting prowess and social skills. In the literal sense, he was a first class footballer who could certainly have made a career in the professional game. As an amateur, he turned out for three clubs in the Scottish Premier League and occasionally represented the mighty Glasgow Rangers. These distinctions served him well in his consultant practice: his name was well known to Glasgow men who followed football and his rounds in the male ward were a joy to watch, conducted in an aura of respectful silence accorded to no other member of the clinical staff. He was also a considerable golfer; his self-deprecatory note in the College archives describes his game as ‘undistinguished’ but this opinion would not be shared by the many opponents who found themselves footing the bill after a game at Western Gailes or Turnberry links. Socially he was a gifted raconteur who possessed a remarkable repository of Glasgow stories and in consequence was much in demand as an after-dinner speaker. Members of many august and sober scientific gatherings, from the Association of Physicians to the British Diabetic Association (as was), found themselves reduced to helpless laughter when Manderson entertained them with a command of the vernacular that ranged from the Gorbals to the leafy environs of Kelvinside.

Bill Manderson was an engaging colleague, remembered with respect and affection by his peers and several generations of juniors and medical students. He was married to his wife Margaret for 53 years: they had two sons.

Angus MacCuish

[Brit.med.J., 2002,325,284]

(Volume XI, page 374)

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