Lives of the fellows

Thomas Bryce Dunn

b.4 February 1920 d.17 January 2008
MB ChB Edin(1942) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1971)

Tom Dunn was an innovative geriatrician, and a leading medical figure in his locality. Born in Falkirk, the son of Hugh Dunn, a bookbinder, and his wife, Helen née Bryce, Tom was educated at George Watson’s College and Edinburgh University. Qualifying during the Second World War, he held a house job at the Royal Sick Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh before he joined the RAMC, in which he served in Europe and then in Turkey.

On discharge as a major, he went to London (where he perhaps felt there were greater opportunities than in Edinburgh), first as a casualty officer at the Metropolitan Hospital from 1947 to 1949, then as a medical registrar and senior registrar at King George’s Hospital, Ilford. In 1958 he was appointed consultant in geriatric medicine at King George’s, Barking and Dagenham hospitals, and at St George’s Hospital, Hornchurch, with his main base at Chadwell Heath Hospital.

Tom developed a much-admired service for old people, and a model unit for ‘the young chronic sick’. In 1969 one of the first ‘old age psychiatrists’, Tom Arie, was appointed to nearby Goodmayes Hospital, and so began a close collaboration between ‘the two Toms’. One fruit of this was a joint unit at Chadwell Heath Hospital, to which those patients whose disorders would benefit from joint investigation or joint care were admitted by either of them, and were jointly looked after. The unit was set up with no extra resources, and when an account of its work and the outcomes was published (Arie T and Dunn T, ‘A “do-it-yourself” psychiatric-geriatric joint patient unit’, Lancet 1973, Dec 8;2(7841):1313-6) it attracted much interest. This successful collaboration gave Arie the confidence to set up a joint department of psychiatrists and physicians when he left Ilford for Nottingham University in 1977. His debt to Tom Dunn was one which the other Tom often acknowledged publicly, describing him as the perfect colleague. Their partnership was happily commemorated in 2002, when they together opened the new NHS nursing home, Meadow Court, built in the grounds of Goodmayes Hospital, in which each of the two floors was named after one Tom.

Tom Dunn became a leading figure in the local medical community, serving as chairman of the senior staff committee and as a member of the district management team. Less formally he was an influential and respected local ‘elder statesman’. In 1997 the British Geriatrics Society awarded him its Jubilee medal. He was an active Rotarian, and an enthusiastic golfer and gardener. Throughout his working life he was a director of the family bookbinding firm, Riley, Dunn & Wilson of Falkirk.

In 1951 Tom married Alice McGregor and they had two daughters, one of whom is a doctor, and two sons. His family was his main source of pride. He and Alice made a beautiful garden at their home in Loughton. Alice died in 1985 and three years later Tom married Kathleen Hall, with whom he enjoyed 12 good years until her death in 2000. He continued to be a traveller, bravely undertaking a trip to Uzbekistan in his early eighties. In his last years he went to live in an excellent care home in St Albans, very near to one of his daughters and her family, where he continued to take an active interest in all that was going on, and to maintain many of his friendships from earlier times.

Tom Arie

(Volume XII, page web)

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