Lives of the fellows

Derek Conmar Robinson

b.19 March 1928 d.17 September 2004
BM BCh Oxon(1952) MRCP(1959) LMCC(1960) FRCP(1979)

Derek Robinson was one of the first consultants in community paediatrics, a relatively new subspecialty of paediatrics at the time. However, even before then, he had already had a successful and exciting medical career of which many would have been proud.

He was born to a strongly medical family in Manchester. His paternal grandfather and his mother were doctors. His father, Conmar Robinson, was also in the field of science, and worked as a research chemist in the mining industry. After finishing school at Oundle, Derek went to study medicine at New College, Oxford.

After graduation in 1954, he went into the army and was a captain with the RAMC, seconded to the Nigeria Regiment for two years. He returned to Oxford in 1956, and spent the next two years working as a house physician to the regius professor of medicine. Very shortly afterwards, he travelled to Canada, and it was there he took up his interest in paediatrics. He was a resident in paediatrics at St Paul's Hospital in Vancouver until 1960. He returned to the UK, and continued his training in paediatrics in London and later at Newcastle until 1970.

While at Newcastle he continued his interest in developing countries. He travelled to Uganda and worked as a lecturer in paediatrics and as an honorary consultant at Makerere University College between 1967 and 1969. He returned in Newcastle in 1969 and secured his first consultant appointment in the UK in 1970, at York. A year later, he was also appointed as an honorary senior lecturer in paediatrics at the nearby University of Leeds.

Many would have settled in such a comfortable position until retirement, but not Derek. With the increasing momentum in the early eighties for the establishment of the new specialty of community paediatrics, Derek took the brave step of moving into this new specialty, and took up an appointment at one of the most deprived and culturally diverse districts in the country, Newham in the east end of London. Over half of the population there were of non-British origin, and over 50 different languages were spoken. Poverty was common amongst both indigenous and immigrant populations.

By the time he retired in 1994, the department was one of the largest of its kind in London, with two consultants, three senior clinical medical officers, four clinical medical officers, and three training grade doctors. There were well established child health promotion and immunisation programmes, and a comprehensive child development and neurodisability service. Strong links were fostered with the local authority agencies, including education and social services.

Derek is fondly remembered by his colleagues and staff in Newham. He was passionate about his work, often coming up with innovative ideas. He used to travel energetically between his community clinics on his bicycle, causing some scary moments for other road users.

After his retirement, he continued to provide invaluable service to deprived children both in the UK and other parts of the world. He worked as a volunteer with the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture and UNICEF. He was very supportive of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's international work.

In addition to his interest in African affairs, Derek was a keen bird watcher, and developed an interest in archaeology during his retirement. He was married to Jean, who was a keen supporter of Christian Aid. They were tragically killed by an intruder at their north London home. They are survived by two daughters and four grandchildren.

Ben Ko

[The Times 18 September 2004;RCPCH Newsletter Winter 2004]

(Volume XII, page web)

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