Lives of the fellows

Richard Frederic Stevens

b.21 April 1949 d.? 2003
BSc Birm(1970) MB ChB(1973) MRCP(1976) MRCPath(1981) FRCP(1991) FRCPath(1996) FRCPCH(1997)

Richard Stevens was a consultant haematologist at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. He was born in Leeds and was educated locally, before beginning his medical training in Birmingham. After qualifying in 1973, he worked in general medicine and paediatrics, before gaining his MRCP in 1976. He first went to Manchester in 1977 for training in haematology, passing the MRCPath examination in 1981. In 1983, he was appointed consultant paediatric haematologist, to which he devoted much of his time and energy for the rest of his life.

He was a real all round laboratory and clinical haematologist, but, inevitably, much of his work revolved around leukaemia and haemophilia. He was secretary of the Medical Research Council childhood leukaemia working party and was closely involved in the acute leukaemia trials that have directed the steady improvement in the outlook for children with these conditions over the years.

He was director of the haemophilia centre at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, and fought a long, and ultimately successful, battle to ensure that all haemophiliac children under his care were treated with recombinant clotting factors, reducing the risk of transmission of infection associated with materials derived from donor blood. In addition to his standard scientific publications, he was also the author of a number of historical reviews, including papers on the history of haemophilia in the royal families of Europe, on Sir Leonard Parsons, Fanconi and Glanzmann.

A significant amount of his spare time was devoted to his patients and their families, for example, on trips to the United States with Destination Florida, a charity which takes sick, often terminally ill, children on holiday.

If he had a fault, it was probably his reluctance to refuse requests for even more calls on his time and energy. He sat on innumerable committees in haematology and paediatrics, and was president of the Manchester Paediatrics Club. He was also the regional specialty adviser in haematology, and chairman of the specialty training subcommittee, and therefore responsible for the welfare and career development of all the haematology trainees in the region.

It is therefore remarkable that Dick had time for a wide variety of extracurricular activities. He was a gifted musician, and played for Guiseley Brass Band, near Leeds, in his school days. More recently he joined Friezland Band, Oldham, and played for six years as a front row cornet. His conductor described him as "a fantastic bloke and a phenomenal sight reader", who took great pride in the band. On one occasion, at an engagement in Germany, he stepped in at the last minute to play solo horn with distinction, to cover a missing player.

He had a love of motor sport and was, himself, an expert mechanic who had rebuilt an old classic Panther car. He was fascinated by steam engines, both large and small, as well as the workings of railways in general. Indeed, he truly derived pleasure from reading railway timetables. He was a DIY enthusiast and a gardener, but his favourite form of relaxation was listening to classical music. His other joy was walking, particularly in the Lake District.

In the light of his many and varied activities, it is very telling that Dick should write on a personal questionnaire under the heading 'hobbies and interests': "looking after the family". He was married to his wife, Eirwen, for 31 years, and they had three children: Jonathan, Helen and Rebecca. He disappeared from his desk in July 2003, and his remains were found six months later by walkers in the Lake District. The precise reasons for his death remain a mystery, but there is no doubting the genuine respect and esteem with which he will always be remembered by his colleagues in haematology and paediatrics, his patients and their families, his many friends outside medicine and, of course, his loving family.

John Houghton

[The Bulletin of the Royal College of Pathologists, 126: April 2004,48-49]

(Volume XI, page 546)

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