Lives of the fellows

Robert Hugh Cawley

b.16 August 1924 d.21 April 1999
BSc Birmingham(1947) PhD(1949)MB ChB(1955) DPM(1959) MRCP(1966) FRCPsych(1971) FRCP(1975) FRCPsych Hon(1990)

Robert Hugh Cawley was emeritus professor of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry and King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry. He was born in Birmingham, the son of Robert Ernest Cawley, a headmaster. He won a scholarship to Solihull School, where he first specialised in English and modern languages. Following a series of severe illnesses in adolescence, he decided to change direction and become a doctor. However, he was judged too frail to study medicine. Instead he went to Birmingham University to study zoology. He later gained a PhD on human growth. He then thought again about becoming a doctor, and worked his way through medical school, taking on part-time research posts in medical statistics and social medicine.

From 1956 to 1957 he was a house surgeon at the neurosurgical unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. He then went on to the Maudsley Hospital as a registrar. Three years later he became a senior registrar and in a further six months he was appointed a clinical lecturer. From 1962 he was a senior lecturer and first assistant to the department of psychiatry at Birmingham, and was then a consultant psychiatrist to the United Birmingham Hospitals. In 1967 he returned to the Maudsley as a consultant physician.

He served on the Medical Research Council, was a consultant adviser to the Department of Health and Social Security and to the Royal Air Force, and was chief examiner for the Royal College of Psychiatrists for seven years.

He was an advocate of both psychotherapy and drug treatments, and undertook research into both. An MRC multicentre trial of drug treatments in depressive illness was followed by attempts at an evaluation of the effectiveness of dynamically oriented psychotherapy.

He viewed himself primarily as a clinician. One of his patients, the New Zealand writer, Janet Frame, wrote about his approach in her autobiographical book An angel at my table. She described how, after she had spent years in mental institutions, he gradually helped her regain her health. The book was later made into a successful film. He retired in 1989, but continued with clinical work.

He leaves a wife Ann, whom he married at the age of 60.

RCP editor

[Brit.med.J., 1999,318,1626; The Guardian 30 April 1999; The Independent 14 May 1999]

(Volume XI, page 100)

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