Lives of the fellows

James Syme

b.25 August 1930 d.12 June 1999
MB ChB Edin(1954) MRCP Edin(1959) FRCP Edin(1967) MRCP Glasg(1975) FRCP Glasg(1978) FRCP(1991) FRCPCH(1996)

James Syme was a consultant paediatrician at Western General Hospital, Edinburgh. He was born in Fife, Scotland, the son of James Wilson Syme, a school headmaster, and Christian Kay Syme. He decided at an early age to become a doctor and studied medicine at Edinburgh, where he was the Ettles scholar and also won prizes in clinical medicine, surgery and obstetrics.

After house jobs at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, he undertook military service as a captain in the RAMC, serving in the military hospital in Lagos, Nigeria. Here he met his future wife, Pam, a teacher. They were married in the Military Hospital Chapel in Lagos in 1956. They went on to have two children, a son (Peter) and a daughter (Vicky).

On returning to Edinburgh Syme was appointed as a senior house officer and then a registrar with J D S Cameron [Munk's Roll, Vol. V, p.182]. This was followed by an appointment at the City Hospital, where he took part in research work being carried out into the use of antibiotics. Finding he had a particular aptitude for dealing with younger patients, he decided to concentrate on paediatric medicine. His first paediatric post was as senior registrar in Glasgow, mainly at Stobhill Hospital, where he helped to develop the mother and baby unit.

In 1965 he was appointed as a consultant paediatrician in what was then the Northern Group of Hospitals in Edinburgh, working initially at Leith Hospital and the newborn unit at the Eastern General Hospital, as well as the Western General Hospital. After the closure of the paediatric department at the Western General Hospital, he moved to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, but continued his special interest in the newborn at the Eastern General Hospital.

He was served on the council of the Edinburgh College from 1976 to 1980 and from 1981 to 1989, during the last four years of which he was vice-president. He was much in demand as an examiner, both in the UK and overseas. As chairman of the joint part II board of the Royal Colleges from 1989 to 1995 he was closely involved in the redevelopment of the common part II examination. For this work, among others, he was elected to the Fellowship of the College in 1991.

He retired in 1994 and moved to the Yorkshire Dales, where he enjoyed gardening and walking, and was involved in his local parish council. He died from a cerebral haemorrhage.

RCP editor

[Proc R Coll Physicians Edinb 1999;29:359-360]

(Volume XI, page 570)

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