Lives of the fellows

John Reginald Trounce

b.22 October 1920 d.16 April 2007
MRCS LRCP(1943) MB BS Lond(1943) MRCP(1944) MD(1946) FRCP(1964)

John Trounce was the first professor of clinical pharmacology at Guy's Hospital Medical School. He was born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, the son of Thomas Reginald Trounce, a GP, and May Agnes née Quartermaine. He was educated at Brighton College, and then went on to study medicine at Guy’s.

After qualifying he served as a captain in the RAMC in France and Germany between 1944 and 1947. His work in the Army involved caring for British forces. For this he was supplied with two minor analgesics and several bandages. Fortunately he had made friends with the staff of an American field unit. He was given generous gifts of medical equipment and drugs, including antibacterials, which were needed in vast amounts. As another example of his resourcefulness and ability to get on with colleagues, he was put (an Englishman) in a Welsh regiment. To be accepted in the mess he had to eat an entire raw leek, a task he accomplished. During his time in the Army he was mentioned in despatches, though he declined to say why.

Returning to London after the war he worked at the Brompton Hospital and the National Heart Hospital, and then went back to Guy's, in the department of medicine. Crucially for medicine in London, he went to the medical school at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore from 1960 to 1961 as a research fellow. Because of his experiences in America, he came back to Britain with the determination to start three developments at Guy's: set up an oncology clinic; start a renal dialysis unit; and teach and examine clinical pharmacology to medical students as a separate subject.

He collaborated with the radiotherapy department and began seminal work on how radiotherapy with chemotherapy can be used to treat cancer. He became the first oncologist at Guy's and worked in the lymphoma clinic until his retirement. It was about the time of the opening of the lymphoma clinic that the first encouraging results of combination chemotherapy in lymphomas were being seen.

The renal perfusion and peritoneal dialysis unit was started under the most severe restrictions of staff, equipment and laboratory facilities. He passed this work onto Stewart Cameron as the first renal physician at Guy's. The unit is now internationally acclaimed.

At the same time Trounce built up a strong clinical and research orientated department of clinical pharmacology. Under his authorship several important textbooks came from his department, including A textbook of clinical pharmacology (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1981), An introduction to mechanisms in pharmacology and therapeutics (London, Heineman Medical Books, 1976) and Clinical pharmacology for nurses (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone). He also collaborated with J C Houston and C L Joiner on the popular A short textbook of medicine (London, English Universities Press, 1962).

John Trounce never seemed to be in a hurry. It is true his clinics tended to go on a long time, but his opinion was often sought by other consultants and his clinics were big as a result of his popularity. It is difficult to pin-point his personal style, but he seemed to foster an atmosphere of concentration and care. On one occasion, a patient, who was a professor of philosophy, arrived at his lymphoma clinic. She had just been diagnosed by tissue biopsy. That very morning Trounce had read a review article in a current journal in which the existing treatments for that particular type of lymphoma were compared. As the clinic was busy, he found a place for the professor to sit and read the article herself. At the end of the clinic he found she had selected the same treatment that he had picked. The treatment was successful and the patient dedicated her next book to him.

As sub-dean from 1965 to 1977 he was an excellent manager and man-handler. Everything was accomplished in his own informal and unhurried manner. On going to him in the deanery with an administrative problem, he would consider it while taking swings with an invisible golf club (usually putting, but occasionally driving from the tee), like a character from Trollope. His colleagues thought he would have made a very good dean but he removed himself from the succession. One reason he did this is that, contrary to appearances, he found administration stressful. He said that while he was sub-dean he steadily gained one kilogram bodyweight from Monday to Friday, and then lost it over the weekend. This was put down to salt and water retention because of adrenal cortical over-stimulation. Efficiency and surface calm came at a price.

Roy Spector

[The Times 14 August 2007; Brit.med.J., 2007 335 619; gktgazette July 2007]

(Volume XII, page web)

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