Lives of the fellows

Robin Jeremy Walker

b.8 July 1940 d.12 January 2004
BSc Liverpool(1962) MB ChB(1965) MRCP(1968) FRCP(1980)

Robin Walker’s challenging, supportive character commanded the respect of his colleagues, while his sympathetic approach and clinical expertise inspired trust and affection from his patients. An outstanding undergraduate career at the University of Liverpool was followed by training in Edinburgh and London, leading to his appointment in 1974 at Walton and Fazakerley hospitals as consultant physician with a remit to establish a service in gastroenterology. From small beginnings in a shared ward and with a single adapted endoscopy theatre, his vision and drive resulted in the creation of a unit with facilities and scope of interests of the first order. His appreciation of the value of interacting with primary care, particularly in relation to endoscopy services, led to the award of the Hospital Doctor team of the year trophy in 1997. It was also during his period as clinical director of gastroenterology that the first English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting recognised course was inaugurated for nurse endoscopists, and of the many trained since the commencement of the course, four have been retained as a valuable component of the endoscopy service.

Robin Walker was inspired to pursue a career in gastroenterology by Rod Gregory [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.211], with whom he undertook an intercalated degree in physiology and who was responsible for the isolation and sequencing of gastrin. He maintained an active research interest in this area and, in conjunction with the department of physiology, conducted studies on the pancreatic gastrin-producing tumour resulting in Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. His pursuit of academic interests, both teaching and research, within the two hospitals played a significant role in raising their profile within the medical faculty and ultimately in the renaming of the amalgamated entity as the University Hospital Aintree, within Aintree Hospitals NHS Trust.

Robin was an incisive thinker and was always scrupulously fair in assessment, but could be direct to the point of confrontation. He was prepared to challenge management and took great pleasure in debunking what he considered the ridiculous and, while his suggestions and comments were not necessarily universally appreciated, they always provoked serious consideration.

Both locally and regionally, he served the interests of juniors via the regional action team and for a period of three years as College adviser to the region. The juniors considered him a guru, a source of career and paternal advice, and his office was rarely empty. Within the Trust and beyond, Robin Walker was an excellent educator and communicator. From multidisciplinary clinical team meetings, to formal lectures, bedside teaching and as an examiner for medical finals and College membership examinations, his uncomplicated and entertaining style was widely appreciated. His reputation as a communicator led to frequent calls to lecture and examine in many places, including the Middle and Far East, in India and in the USA.

Robin’s interests in medicine extended well outside his clinical practice and he was chairman of the Liverpool Medical Institution, where his choice of inaugural lecture 'Old time music hall' showed, not for the first time, his surprising depth. At the time of his death he was sub dean of the Royal Society of Medicine. An abiding interest, both clinically and on committee, was the problem of alcohol abuse and he served with distinction on regional and national Medical Councils on Alcohol. He was also an adviser to the influential Portman Group. Parochial interests within the hospital were served by his deep involvement with the League of Friends and he could be seen acting as gatekeeper at their monthly car boot sales, a commanding figure in his white coat.

He married Margaret Mary Eileen née Coole in 1964. A devoted family man, his pride and pleasure in his two sons and two daughters, and his grandchildren, sustained him, particularly when latterly he felt that the NHS, to which he was firmly committed, was losing its sense of direction. His wit, however, remained pithy, his counsel, wise. His friendship and loyalty to his colleagues will be greatly missed.

Neville Krasner

(Volume XI, page 597)

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