Lives of the fellows

Arthur Oswald Michael Gilmour

b.6 July 1919 d.8 June 1999
OBE MB ChB Otago(1943) MRACP(1950) MRCP(1952) FRACP(1958) FRCP(1968)

Note: the first obituary (below) was published in print form in Volume XI; the second was received after publication of the printed edition.

Arthur Oswald Michael 'Mike' Gilmour was a distinguished physician in Auckland. He was born in Invercargill, New Zealand, the son of Robert Joyce Gilmour, a company director, and Sophie Philippa née Philips, the daughter of a merchant. He was educated at Christ's College, Christchurch, and then went on to Otago Medical School. He held a post as house physician at Auckland Hospital, and then served as a captain in the New Zealand Medical Corps in the Middle East, Italy and Japan.

From 1947 to 1949 he was a registrar at Dunedin Hospital, and in 1950 was physician superintendent at Oamaru Hospital. He then went to the UK, where he held posts at the British Postgraduate Medical School, Brompton Hospital and West London Hospital. He gained his membership of the College in 1952.

He returned to Auckland as medical tutor to Auckland Hospital and was subsequently appointed as a consultant physician. He held many roles within Auckland Hospital over the years, including sub dean of the Auckland branch faculty of Otago Medical School, chairman of the postgraduate medical committee, chairman of the division of medicine and chairman of the council on appointments. He was also involved in the planning and establishment of the school of medicine at the University of Auckland, and once it was opened was made clinical reader of medicine. He was elected to the council of the university in 1971 and was pro chancellor from 1978 to 1979.

He was a censor and then senior censor for New Zealand for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and a councilor of the college. He was a member of the Medical Council of New Zealand from 1975, and was appointed chairman in 1981.

He married Christine Keith Farrer in 1948. They had one son and one daughter.

RCP editor

[Fellowship Affairs September 1999, 37]

Michael Gilmour, an eminent New Zealand physician, was much loved as a man of wisdom, understanding and compassion, and was highly regarded by his colleagues. He was born in Invercargill, the most southerly town in New Zealand. His father, Robert Gilmour, was both owner and editor of a newspaper, the Southland Times. Stimulating and wide-ranging dinner discussions with regular visitors formed a background to his childhood. Michael was educated at boarding schools, first at Waihi School at Winchester, South Canterbury, and then at Christ’s College, Christchurch, where he held the Soames scholarship. During his undergraduate medical studies at the University of Otago he showed leadership, being elected president of his residential college, Selwyn College, foreshadowing his leadership qualities. Graduating in 1943, he spent 12 months as a house physician at Auckland Hospital, before serving for two years in the New Zealand Medical Corps, in the Middle East, Italy and Japan.

Gilmour returned to the Otago Medical School in 1947 to start his postgraduate training in medicine and became a member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians before going to England in 1951. He held posts at the Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, the Brompton Hospital and the West London Hospital, and passed the examination for membership of the Royal College of Physicians.

When he returned to New Zealand in 1954 he held the post of medical tutor at Auckland Hospital with responsibility for supervising and teaching the 32 final year medical students from the University of Otago. Two years later, in 1956, he became a consulting visiting physician at Auckland Hospital, a position he held for the remainder of his professional life.

Gilmour retained his interest in the education of medical students and was appointed subdean of the Auckland branch of the faculty of the University of Otago from 1961 to 1969. At the same time he served on the senate medical advisory committee responsible for developing the new school of medicine in Auckland. With the establishment of the department of medicine in the new school he became a clinical reader. With full support of the consulting staff he served as chairman of the division of medicine at Auckland Hospital. Interest in university affairs led to his election to the council of the University of Auckland, on which he served for eight years, concluding with his election as pro-chancellor. For his many contributions he was awarded a doctor of science degree (honoris causa) in 1983 by the University of Auckland.

Consulting medical practice remained his primary commitment. His colleagues held him in very high regard for his skill in diagnosis, frequently calling on him for help with personal and family medical problems. The warmth of his personality and the compassion shown to all patients irrespective of their personal status influenced his many medical friends and served as a shining example for generations of medical students and young doctors. After Sir Edward Sayers [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.437] left in 1961 to become dean of the Otago Medical School, Gilmour was for 25 years the pre-eminent physician in Auckland.

Interest in the affairs of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians after his election to fellowship in 1958 soon led him in 1962 to serve for 12 years as a college censor. Between 1970 and 1974 he was a senior censor. He became the vice-president for New Zealand in 1964 for two years and was elected president of the College from 1976 to 1978. His term as president was notable for establishing the continuing education programme. The idea that the college should offer both opportunity and encouragement for fellows to adopt a habit of continuing education was made possible through a grant from the Kellogg Foundation. John Hunter [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.279] became the first full-time foundation director.

The adoption of a part one FRACP examination, followed by a three-year period of supervised advanced training led to a greatly increased workload. Many of the changes in qualifications were contentious, requiring all of Gilmour’s people skills. Debate in the council was tense and at times acrimonious, but in the end he was able to achieve a consensus. Coming from New Zealand, he stood on neutral ground and was able to take an objective view of the Australian medical scene.

During his time in office the college properties were expanded to include a refurbished 145, in addition to 147 Macquarie Street, Sydney. For many years Gilmour acted as the representative of the Royal College of Physicians in New Zealand, entertaining overseas medical guests, including distinguished presidents of the College. He advised the college on the New Zealand physicians worthy of consideration for election to the fellowship. He was elected an honorary fellow of the American College of Physicians in 1977. While a member of the Medical Council of New Zealand from 1975 he served for some years with distinction, before becoming chairman in 1981.

Retaining a broad interest in the arts, he read widely and, with strong support from his wife, Christine, entertained and amused his broad group of friends.

His retirement was marred by his own progressive ill health and by the deaths within one year of Christine and his daughter Philippa. These grievous misfortunes he bore with characteristic cheerful fortitude. He is survived by his son Robert, a medical graduate.

G L Glasgow
J D K North

(Volume XI, page web)

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