Lives of the fellows

Patricia Mary Leeson

b.13 July 1927 d.11 October 2006
MB BCh BAO Dublin(1951) BA(1951) MRCP(1957) FRCP(1973)

Pat Leeson was a consultant physician in geriatric medicine/medicine for the elderly in Derby. She retired before it became fashionable to be called ‘consultant physician with an interest in the elderly’. Upon hearing the new title, she quietly remarked, with a wry smile: ‘the pariahs are home at last then’. Born of Irish ancestry in Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire, she finished her schooling in various places in England and then went to Trinity in Dublin for her medical education, eventually qualifying with flying colours and winning many prizes. One of her accomplishments was to prove that one could be alive after being pronounced dead by doctors! This happened to her at the age of 21 after falling from her bike. She also survived a crash landing in a small plane in a field in Hampshire shortly after the war.

After junior house jobs in Dublin, Leicester Royal Infirmary and St George’s in the East, London, she spent two years as a medical registrar in East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital, before moving to Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where she ultimately became a research assistant in the professorial medical unit from 1958 to 1961. Then she had a two-year stint in geriatrics as an assistant physician at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Not content with what she was doing, she upped herself and spent a year as a research fellow at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, USA.

On her return to the UK, she was appointed as first assistant in the department of clinical investigation, Leeds University, until she took up her appointment as consultant physician in geriatric medicine in 1966 to Derby Area Health Authority. It must have been daunting to transpose from academia to pure service, comprising of 700 beds spread over five different hospitals with no junior staff, no personal secretary and no office. Legend has it that Pat Leeson had to fund the medical secretary from her pocket for few months. It is remarkable and a tribute to her tenacity that, from such bizarre beginning, she had, by 1977, built a comprehensive department with 60 new acute beds in Derby City General Hospital staffed with three full-time registrars and nine senior house officers in geriatric medicine. The high esteem with which fellow physicians and other colleagues held her showed in her various achievements, including a ‘B’ distinction award.

Her love of horses and farm life prompted her to visit her aunt in Norfolk as often as she could. She never married, but was very close to her brother’s family. She was keenly involved in affairs of the village and the church at Mackworth where she lived. Time permitting she was a good host and had considerable culinary skills. She did appear to be formidable and unapproachable in the best of circumstances, but once you cross the barrier that she had built around her you would see a generous and kind humane soul always eager to help and to champion the underdog.

R M Mishra

(Volume XII, page web)

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