Lives of the fellows

Peter William Adams

b.22 September 1937 d.25 October 2002
MB BChir Cantab(1962) MA(1962) DObst RCOG(1964) DCH(1965) MRCP(1969) FRCP(1986)

Peter William Adams was a consultant physician at Ashford, Middlesex, with an interest in diabetes and endocrinology. He was born in London, the son of Sir Walter and Lady Tatiana Adams. His father was an academic, who eventually became director of the London School of Economics, following a spell as chairman of the University of Rhodesia in Salisbury. His mother had escaped from Russia in 1917, with her mother and older brother, and had eventually reached the USA via Turkey. Peter's parents had met in Boston, USA. The Russian connection was kept very much alive, and Peter, his brother Michael and their twin siblings, were brought up bilingual. Peter never allowed his Russian to lapse, and attended the Russian Orthodox Church.

He was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford (where the LSE was evacuated during the war), then at University College School, Hampstead. He then went up to Clare College, Cambridge. He enjoyed Cambridge, made lasting friends there and was a tower of strength in a successful college first boat. While an undergraduate he went to Moscow as part of the English delegation to a world student gathering. He was probably the only English delegate fluent in Russian, and is said to have drunk a Russian general under the table and may have smuggled a Russian student back to the UK. Certainly, many years later, during the 1970s, he received a mysterious message from the Foreign Office advising him not to travel to Russia.

He equally enjoyed his clinical training at the London Hospital with its East End environment. He married his first wife Darya, an actress, and had a family immediately after he qualified. He held various junior posts, including at Brighton and Reading, where he was a registrar. During this time he developed his philosophy of medicine – he was a tireless worker, a meticulous history taker, and a doctor who left no stone unturned to try and find the root cause of his patients' problems.

Peter went from Reading to a highly productive lectureship in the Alexander Simpson unit for metabolic medicine at St Mary's Hospital, London, under the benevolent director Victor Wynn. The quality of Peter's contribution to the unit became even more apparent when an Egyptian clinical scientist, Ahmed Kissebah, joined. Ahmed really felt at home in the lab, and Peter at the bedside, so they made an ideal combination. As well as having a considerable reputation as a clinician, Peter was a tireless researcher at St Mary's, where he made important contributions to our understanding of the metabolic effects of the oral contraceptives and their component steroids. On Saturday mornings Peter ran a lipid clinic – before they were fashionable – and he was a pioneer in preaching the benefits of healthy eating. The regular patients got to know each other well, and could often be found after the clinic at the local pub, lunching on beer, cigarettes and greasy sausage rolls. Even this didn't staunch Peter's enthusiasm.

In 1978 Peter was appointed as a consultant physician at Ashford Hospital, Middlesex, a post he held until his untimely death from secondary melanoma two weeks after his 65th birthday. When he took up his consultant post he devoted a huge amount of time and energy to the medical service at Ashford Hospital and made a great contribution to every aspect of hospital life.

Peter was a tower of strength at Ashford, and his clinical acumen and dedication have very rightly been acknowledged by the creation of the Peter Adams award, in recognition of exceptional service to the NHS trust and to the community. He himself became the posthumous first recipient of this award. He would have been proud, although I know he would have made some witty and slightly self-deprecating comment if he had lived to hear about it.

After his first marriage ended he continued his relentless working pattern. At this time, I introduced him to Sue Porter, a successful estate agent in Barnes who also had a medical background – she was previously a staff nurse at UCH. They married soon afterwards. Peter and Sue were ideally suited. Peter had a lifelong interest in the visual arts, and he and Sue travelled extensively.

His family hugely enhanced Peter's life. First, there was Sue, who was a tremendous support; then his older children Elena and Anna, and his grandsons, Nial and William, and his and Sue's children, Nicholas and Marianna. He was excited by Nicholas's success as a long distance swimmer and was proud of his appointment to the Eton staff. Marianna's Russian degree and the graduation ceremony at UCL was a huge effort, but he attended it shortly before he died – with pride.

After his final diagnosis, Peter was an example to us all. He took a brave academic interest in his disease and was invariably courteous to those responsible for his care.

Nigel Oakley

(Volume XII, page web)

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