Lives of the fellows

Frank Haddow Scadding

b.7 April 1914 d.29 April 2006
MRCS LRCP(1937) MB BS Lond(1937) MD(1939) MRCP(1939) FRCP(1955)

Frank Scadding, who specialised in respiratory medicine, was one of the most highly regarded among the cadre of twentieth century doctors who held appointments as general physicians in teaching hospitals. He was born into a musical family and educated in Lincolnshire, where his brilliance was recognised with a Lindsey scholarship to study medicine at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, which was to become his professional base. He won several undergraduate prizes, including those for pharmacology and psychological medicine. In spite of his great personal modesty he did keep a charming letter expressing the delight of his county education committee in his rare honours degree.

After house posts at the Middlesex and Brompton hospitals, he became a medical registrar at the Middlesex, working with George Beaumont [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.33], a leading authority in general as well as thoracic medicine, who had a formidable reputation as a teacher.

In 1942 he joined the RAMC, spending some time in Gambia and ending his service career in 1946 as a lieutenant colonel in charge of a sanatorium in Chester. Much later he became an honorary consultant to the Army.

After the war he returned to registrars posts at the Middlesex and subsequently at the Brompton, becoming chief assistant there and at the same time working as consultant at the Western and Hounslow hospitals. He was appointed consultant at the Middlesex in 1953 and the Brompton at about the same time. He had consulting rooms in Harley Street and was on the staff of King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst, for many years.

Frank Scadding was a high-principled and gentle physician who reached decisions through thoroughness and attention to detail; his approach was emulated by most of his trainees. He preferred systematic teaching with small groups of students to the showy but unstructured grand rounds that were fashionable at the time. His clinical ward rounds started with a meeting of nurses, doctors and social workers when all the professions shared their views about the patients’ diagnoses, treatment and personal needs; when the group reached the bedside, all the attention was focused on the patient. Then came lunch with his colleagues in the boardroom (never missed and probably his favourite source of postgraduate education), and outpatients. The high point of the day for his team was the early evening round of consultations requested by other physicians. He would make a close examination of all the available information and write a succinct paragraph in the case notes. These notes were directed to the referring doctor, usually contained fresh insights and were always expressed with his habitual courtesy, especially when it was obvious that the diagnosis had not been considered before. This was consulting at its best and it led to his high repute among his peers at the Brompton as well as at the Middlesex and to his practice as a ‘doctor’s doctor’. He always seemed to have all the time in the world, partly because although he was assiduous in committees he did not seek office.

He had an easy relationship with scientific advances, which troubled some of his contemporaries. In his early years he wrote extensively about tuberculosis and contributed chapters to general medical texts. The Middlesex physiologist Eric Neil [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.385] had realised that clinical physiology needed to be developed as a discipline, and this enabled Frank to set up a pulmonary laboratory staffed by lecturers with a joint university appointment between physiology and medicine. He felt strongly that this should be near the ward and waited until space could be found in a side room, always maintaining a close interest in its work and in relevant scientific advances. He had to hone his clinical skills without the diagnostic aids, which became available after his retirement, such as computerised tomography and fibreoptic endoscopy, but he would surely have been fully up to date had he been practising today. In his last few years, when the academic department of medicine at the Middlesex had developed a powerful respiratory team, Frank agreed to a move of his wards and change of his timetable to add his strength to the unit.

He was the son of a music teacher and was himself an accomplished violinist and pianist, though he confessed that perfect pitch made him prefer professional concerts to supporting the students’ amateur concerts! He supported the medical school throughout and enjoyed the junior doctors’ social events; as a couple he and his wife Helen shed their professional reserve and his usually dry, though sometimes impish, sense of humour became more apparent. He generated great respect from all who worked for him and this was demonstrated by the fact that most of his former senior registrars and registrars attended his retirement dinner at the Royal Society of Medicine.

In his early years he was an accomplished tennis player and cricketer, and his family remember him spending hours at a lathe making engineering models. Later, he took up sailing with members of his family, which enabled him to escape from the telephone. He taught himself on dinghies, which he assembled from kits, progressing to advanced training in sailing ocean-going vessels and the use of up-to-date navigational aids.

In 1971 he developed claudication and angina and gave up his beloved pipe without a backward look. In 1979, the year of his retirement from the National Health Service, he underwent coronary artery surgery from which he took a while to recover, but he was happily able to enjoy motor caravanning, motor cruising on the Thames and tending his garden for many years. A spell of late-onset asthma was relieved by modern treatment and he died at the age of 92 of complications of this.

Frank married Helen Lake, a Middlesex nurse, in 1941. They had a son and a daughter, who is a doctor. He had four grandchildren, some of whom sailed for him when he could no longer do it himself, and three great-grandchildren.

Gabriel Laszlo

(Volume XII, page web)

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