Lives of the fellows

Eduji Rustumji Sethna

b.3 December 1925 d.29 June 2006
MB BS Bombay(1951) MRCP(1956) DTM&H(1958) DPM(1963) MRCPsych(1971) FRCPsych(1986) FRCP(1987)

Eddy Sethna was a consultant psychiatrist in Birmingham and in retirement a hugely successful amateur photographer. Born in Bombay, the son of an accountant, Najamai Sethna, Eddy won two scholarships which entirely funded his undergraduate medical education. He qualified from Bombay University in 1951. Having completed house jobs in Bombay, he became a senior house officer in medicine at the Bury and Rossendale Group of Hospitals in Lancashire in 1954 and then spent a short time as a medical registrar at Preston Royal Infirmary. He passed his MRCP in 1956. His major interest was cardiology and he undertook specialist training at Sefton General Hospital in Liverpool and the London Heart Hospital. He also obtained a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene.

In 1959 he returned to India as a consultant physician to the Jahangir Nursing Home in Poona. He spent 21 months in this post, but following a disagreement with his superiors over his unwillingness to charge patients who could not afford his services, he decided to return to England.

Back in England, he decided to train as a psychiatrist. Perhaps his decision was pragmatic given the competition for cardiology posts. I suspect, however, that Eddy changed specialties because he saw a field of medicine where patients were poorly served and believed that he could make a major contribution to improving their outcomes. His first psychiatric appointment was as a registrar at the St Francis and Lady Chichester Group of Hospitals in Chichester. Here he built a device for the treatment of writer’s cramp. Sadly, no details of this invention are available. He did his senior registrar training in Birmingham and was appointed as a consultant psychiatrist in 1966 to All Saints Hospital in Birmingham with an attachment to West Bromwich and District Hospital. He was awarded his MRCPscyh in 1971.

During his consultant career he developed an interest in and published papers on group psychotherapy and refractory depression. He also had a major interest in phobias and his family remember with pleasure the day an agoraphobic patient arrived unannounced at his home to thank him for curing her. He treated his patients with courtesy and as individuals, and they responded positively to his approach.

Ten years after his first consultant appointment, he was looking for a more enlightened approach to patient management and was appointed to a consultant post with sessions at Hollymoor Hospital, Birmingham, and the Lyndon Clinic, Solihull. In this post he felt empowered to treat patients in a manner that reflected the best management available.

Throughout his career, Eddy was passionate about his patients and had clear ideas of how they could best be managed. This passion extended to other aspects of his work. When asked to organise training for Birmingham psychiatric registrars, Eddy, with typical thoroughness and attention to detail, demanded that he be allowed to design the programme from scratch, ignoring the preconceived ideas of those more senior to him. This allowed him to establish a comprehensive training programme that included all psychiatric subspecialties. The rotational training scheme that he devised was the first in the country and was so popular with trainees that it was subsequently adopted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as their national model for rotational training.

In his early fifties, Eddy returned to his boyhood interest in photography as an antidote to the stresses of his job. As a teenager in India he had developed an interest in photography when his father had bought him a second hand bellows and camera. He and his brother built their own enlarger for making prints using, amongst other things, a biscuit tin and a pile of books. Amateur photography, like medicine, has distinctions that require dedicated effort. Eddy became a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society by successfully submitting a portfolio of photographs that demonstrated his unique skills as a photographer and achieved his AFIAP (Artist Federation Internationale De L’Art Photographique), a European distinction that requires an impressive and sustained record of success in international exhibitions.

In retirement, he became a leader and inspiration for legions of amateur photographers, taking tentative steps into the field of digital photography. He approached digital photography as he approached medicine, studying Photoshop systematically so he understood its ever-evolving capabilities. With his in-depth knowledge and ability to teach in an inspiring and understandable manner, he encouraged and helped others to develop their skills. He willingly offered one-to-one teaching sessions, wrote four books and many articles for photographic journals and was instrumental in the formation of the Royal Photographic Society’s digital imaging group. He served as a vice-president of the Royal Photographic Society and was awarded its prestigious Fenton medal and honorary membership.

Eddy died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at home. He is survived by his devoted wife Beryl, who he met as a shy young man when she was instructed to show him that a social life existed outside his hospital. As was typical, Eddy enquired about etiquette and other matters before their first outing. Having been told that a kiss on the cheek would be appropriate, he took care of this formality early in the evening commenting: ‘There, I’ve done it’. Eddy is also survived by his two daughters, son and seven grandchildren, whom he adored.

He is remembered by his family, patients and friends for his kindness and his sympathetic and systematic approach to solving the problems of others. He was a true gentleman, treating everyone with respect and genuine concern.

Anne J Sutcliffe

[Brit.med.J., 2006 333 1074]

(Volume XII, page web)

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