Lives of the fellows

Charles Eric (Sir) Stroud

b.15 May 1924 d.29 December 2005
Kt(1989) BSc Wales(1945) MB BCh(1948) MRCP(1955) DCH(1955) FRCP(1968)

Most people meeting Eric Stroud for the first time would guess he was not only a doctor but also a paediatrician. He liked people, he loved children, and they knew it. To observe him engage with children at all ages was a delight, indeed it was difficult to decide who was having the most fun. An ability to relate to children is a necessary attribute to be a children's physician, but the capacity to communicate with parents and establish confidence is also vital. Here Eric excelled; parents knew that his concern was real and that his competence was exceptional. Many would contact him directly at home when they were worried, and he would welcome this whilst his family accepted it and supported him. Indeed his family was an important part of his professional as well as his private life. In 1950 he married June Neep, who was a physiotherapist, and they had one son and two daughters. This closely-knit happy family supported him and he was devoted to them.

Eric was proud of his Welsh origins. He was born in Cardiff and his father was both a draughtsman working for a shipping company and a schoolteacher. When he was laid off work during the Depression he spent time working with disabled children. His maternal grandfather was a St John's ambulance driver to whom the local children used to go for treatment for minor accidents. Helping other people's children was almost a family preoccupation.

He won a scholarship to Cardiff High School and wanted to join the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot. He was found to be colour-blind and therefore applied for medicine and entered the Welsh National School. He had a distinguished undergraduate career, qualifying in 1948 with commendation along with distinctions in public health, surgery, midwifery and pathology and gold medals in pathology and surgery with a silver medal in obstetrics. Not surprisingly he did his National Service in the Royal Air Force and later in his career became a civilian paediatrician to the Royal Air Force. He started his paediatric training in 1953 in Cardiff, before moving to Great Ormond Street in 1955.

In 1958 he was seconded by Great Ormond Street to Makere Hospital in Uganda, where he ran the paediatric department. He and the family loved their time in Africa and there he developed a lifelong interest in tropical paediatrics, the social causes and consequences of childhood diseases and the need to organise services for the benefit of children. His interest in children and people was demonstrated by his capacity always to address at least a few words to a child in their own language.

He returned to Great Ormond Street in 1960, transferring to Guy's Hospital as the assistant to the director of paediatrics in 1961. He was enormously popular with medical students because he took his responsibilities for educating them seriously, but was also enormous fun. Students from Guy's of that particular vintage still tell stories of his ward rounds, his attendance at firm dinners, and also how he taught them to undertake developmental assessments of small babies amongst much else.

In 1962 he was appointed consultant at King's College Hospital, becoming the foundation professor of paediatrics in the newly-formed academic department of child health in 1967. He was also at this time honorary senior lecturer in tropical paediatrics at Great Ormond Street. His life's work was the development of paediatric services at King's and in south east London. His particular interest was working with the Caribbean community. He worked on emotional deprivation and nutritional problems of Caribbean children and started a sickle cell and thalassaemia clinic at King's. He recruited Alex Mowat [Munk's Roll, Vol.X, p.351] to set up the special children's liver unit, working with the adult unit headed by Roger Williams and Harold Gamsu to develop neonatal intensive care. Both these units continue and now have international recognition. He was always willing to share and recognize the importance of partnerships long before they became fashionable. Accordingly, rather than competing with colleagues at Guy's and St Thomas's, he recruited them to the cause of developing specialist paediatric services in south London to cover the whole range of need. King's College Hospital had a strong paediatric tradition when Eric was appointed. The first professor of paediatrics in England was Sir George Frederic Still [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV, p.432], paediatrician at Great Ormond Street and at King's. Sir Wilfrid Sheldon [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.531] was also paediatrician to King's and Great Ormond Street. In spite of this the department Eric inherited was small and disaggregated. He set about establishing within King's the importance of paediatrics and child health, which was no easy task given the dominance in hospital life of general medicine and general surgery at that time. It was he more than any other who enabled the Variety Club Children's Hospital at King's to be built. This allowed the Belgrave Hospital at the Oval to be closed and consolidated on the King's site.

He was adept, indeed almost a genius, at raising money. He engaged with local businessmen and most particularly with the Variety Club of Great Britain, becoming their international adviser. He supported the small, newly-formed charity established to improve research in children called Children's Nationwide, becoming their medical director, and assisted them in becoming a major force for research in British paediatrics.

Eric Stroud was instrumental outside King's and the local environment of south east London. He was the chairman of various Government reports, including reports on child sexual abuse, blood cholesterol screening and chemical contamination. He was chairman of the standing medical advisory committee of the Department of Health and received a knighthood for this work in 1989. His reputation was as great abroad as it was in this country. He was a member of INSERM, the French equivalent of the Medical Research Council, president of the Club de Paediatric Sociale of Europe from 1982 to 1991. This was a Francophone society, so emphasising his skill with languages. He was a trustee of the Hadassah (Israel) Medical Relief Organisation and Christofferson lecturer of the American Academy of Paediatricians in 1995. Between 1991 and 1996 he was director of the overseas office of the College. He was instrumental in setting up the British paediatric surveillance unit, with support from Children's Nationwide, which was originally based within the College, before transferring to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health after its formation. His international commitments were huge. He was involved with the creation of the new medical school in the Chinese University in Hong Kong, visiting professor to the Adelaide Children's Hospital in 1976 at their centenary, and an honorary paediatrician in the Athens Children's Hospital. He was an examiner in many universities throughout the world. His research interests were broadly based, including bone lesions in urticaria pigmentosa, Still's disease, nutritional problems in immigrant children and the problems of immigrant mothers.

His main academic contribution was to create a department and to encourage and even inspire young people to do good work. His kindness was legendary. He was enormously generous of his time in helping others, and indeed rarely talked about his problems because he was too busy solving those of others.

He had two main hobbies, antiques and fishing, both constrained by the expenditure involved. His wife June said that he would never turn down an invitation to spend a day standing in the Avon waiting for a trout to smile at him!

Eric Stroud was the sort of person that you always looked forward to meeting, because you knew you would learn something useful, he would provide help if you needed it, and you would have fun. He left behind him a lasting reputation, a superb department, first rate paediatric services in south east London and a wonderful family.

Cyril Chantler

[The Daily Telegraph 1 January 2006]

(Volume XII, page web)

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