Lives of the fellows

Robert Sutherland Chapman

b.4 June 1938 d.5 December 2003
MB ChB Aberdeen(1962) MRCP Edin(1965) MRCP(1967) FRCP Edin(1977) FRCP(1984) MRCP Glasg(1984) FRCP Glasg(1986)

Robert Chapman, known as ‘Roy’, was a consultant dermatologist for Stobhill Trust in Glasgow. He was born in Cults, Aberdeen, and attended Turriff Academy, where he was dux. He graduated from Aberdeen University with honours in 1962 and his early medical career was spent in Aberdeen, beginning a Carnegie research fellowship in materia medica in 1963 after his pre-registration year. He was involved with general medical duties, but particularly worked on thyroid disease and also looked after patients with a carrier state of salmonella typhi.

He was awarded the MRCP (Edinburgh) in 1965 and in 1966 began his dermatology career. This was also based in Aberdeen, with responsibility at the clinics in Woolmanhill Hospital, inpatient care at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and paediatric clinics at the Royal Aberdeen Hospital for Sick Children. Outlying clinics were held in Elgin, Buckie, Banff, Huntly and Peterhead. His mentors in Aberdeen were Thomas Anderson and Robert Main, and he clearly developed an enthusiasm for his chosen subject. He was awarded the MRCP (London) in 1967.

In 1969, he was appointed senior registrar at the Middlesex Hospital in London with clinical assistant responsibilities at St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, then based near Leicester Square. He worked with Francis Bettley [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.39] and Robert Meara, and had the privilege of being involved with Charles Calnan at St John’s and becoming part of the epicentre of dermatology training.

After only 17 months in London, he was appointed consultant at Stobhill General Hospital in the north east of Glasgow, beginning that post in February 1971. At that time the hospital boasted 40 dermatology beds, 12 of which were for paediatrics. His responsibility was to Stobhill and also to the Forth Valley, where he travelled to Falkirk and Alloa to conduct clinics on a regular basis.

After his arrival at his consultant post, he and his fiancée Rosalind Sher were married in April 1972. They had three children, all of whom have excelled themselves in their own chosen field, his eldest, Janet, being a qualified general practitioner.

His areas of responsibility changed with modifications in the health service, the onset of trusts and the severe reduction in inpatient services that ensued over the next 25 years. Roy was not comfortable with these changes, but adapted as best he could to the continuing withdrawal of support as he saw it for the dermatology patient. From 1983 he was responsible for the administration of the department in Stobhill. He was a disciplinarian: he asked for standards similar to those he set for himself and he was a hard act to follow.

In all his dealings with colleagues and junior staff he was scrupulously fair, and extremely helpful in training and teaching at all levels. He was sensitive to the needs of struggling juniors, particularly those who were away from ‘home’ and was supportive at all times. Roy was scrupulously honest and everyone knew exactly where they were with him and what he thought about what they said, did and indeed how they dressed.

Ultimately, the inpatient department at Stobhill closed in 1996 and, with the beginning of trust administration of NHS services, he no longer visited the Forth Valley area and concentrated all his efforts on the Stobhill outpatient service.

Sadly, he was predeceased by his wife Rosalind, who died in November 1997, but he continued to work with as much energy and enthusiasm as previously. He decided to retire in August of 1999 at the age of 61. However, the Trust could not manage without him and so he agreed to work as a locum part-time until such time as the service could be adequately supported. He married Gladys in August 2000.

It had been Roy’s intention to pursue his interests during his retirement. He was passionate about all things Scottish, particularly history, and in his family, of whom he was immensely proud. He had traveled extensively round the UK and further afield, and had developed an interest in other cultures. Sadly, his ambitions for his retirement were not to be: in the summer of 2002 he became ill and was later diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He continued to work until June 2003, despite increasing disability, and finally stopped when he was 65. His last illness was mercifully of short duration. He leaves his second wife Gladys, his daughter, two sons and two stepsons.

Angela Forsyth

(Volume XI, page 105)

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