Lives of the fellows

George Stephen Clive Sowry

b.26 December d.4 September
MRCS LRCP(1940) MB BS Lond(1940) MRCP(1946) MD(1947) FRCP(1963) FRCP Edin(1986) FFOM RCP(1986)

Clive Sowry was a consultant physician at Edgware General Hospital. He was born in Newcastle, Staffordshire, the son of George Herbert Sowry and Stella (née Caddick-Adams). His father was the senior physician at the North Staffordshire Hospital. Clive was educated at the ‘doctor’s school’, Epsom College, and won an entrance scholarship, without benefit of rugby talent, to St Mary’s Medical School. He qualified MB BS and MRCS LRCP in 1940, when it was usual to take both exams as a precaution.

His first post was as house physician to the medical unit headed by George Pickering [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.464], who had only arrived from UCH in 1939. After a house surgeon posts at Hillingdon Sowry joined the navy RNVR as surgeon lieutenant in 1941 and over the next five years served in the Atlantic fleet in the western approaches, on convoy duty and submarine deterrence. Finally, he was attached to the Fleet Air Arm in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He had married Jeanne Adams in 1943 and, on demobilisation, it required all her patient support as he rapidly applied himself to gaining his MRCP (1946), followed by the MD (1947).

He was a house physician at the Brompton Hospital (1947), and then a registrar at the Hammersmith Hospital. Post war supernumary registrars were an example to the rest of us by their mature application and ability to take decisions. He was welcomed back to St Mary’s as a senior registrar (1948 to 1950) and then to his first medical home, the medical unit, as an assistant to Pickering (1950 to 1953).

At the medical unit he took a considerable part in the major investigations into high blood pressure and, together with Michael Hamilton, gathered the data which established blood pressure in the general population as a continuous variable with no sharp cut off point above which hypertension existed. This of course led to the infamous controversy with Robert Platt [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.470] who firmly believed there was a large group that could be segregated in the upper reaches of blood pressure (the so-called double hump in distribution of blood pressure). They furthermore established the basis for the inheritance of high blood pressure by examining the blood pressures of relatives and this led to the publication of an important collection of papers which changed the way in which high blood pressure was regarded world-wide. Both were excellent physicians and interacted with Pickering and the statistician Fraser Roberts in an admirably pragmatic way.

As a revealing aside Sowry, on a ward round, noted that one of the students, an international footballer, appeared uncharacteristically agitated and sweaty, which led to the uncovering of a phaeochromocytoma and its successful removal. As always, he was an astute observer!

In 1953 he realised his real ambition when he was appointed consultant physician at the Edgware General Hospital, where he established a diabetic clinic, but remained essentially a wise excellent general physician. His qualities led to his appointment as medical administrator and he raised the profile of the hospital, by increasing its reputation for service, and by arranging student attachments and house officer rotations so that London University accorded it university hospital status.

He was also prominent in College educational affairs, becoming senior censor and vice-president in 1978. He particularly enjoyed examining overseas.

He had wide interests and whatever he did, ranging from DIY carpentry, to dinghy sailing, gardening and choral singing, he did with great enthusiasm, determination and good humour. His interest in all manner of people made him the excellent physician he was, and his natural friendly nature, together with his dislike of sloppy thought and behaviour, made him an equally excellent administrator, “the same to all men”. In all this he was supported by his wife, Jeanne, and their children, Penelope and Anthony, and he would have hated the burden his final prolonged illness placed upon them.

Sir Stanley Peart

[Brit.med.J., 2002,324,54; J.R.Coll.Physcians.Edinb. 2002,32,69-72]

(Volume XI, page 536)

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