Lives of the fellows

David Anthony Hilton Yates

b.15 August 1930 d.13 September 2004
MB BS Lond(1953) MRCP(1957) DPhysMed(1960) MD(1963) FRCP(1974)

Tony Yates was a distinguished rheumatologist at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. His father, Harry Yates, was a St Thomas’ Hospital-trained general practitioner and came from a family of brewers. On his mother’s side, there was a strong Guy’s Hospital connection: his maternal grandfather, C H Fagge, was a Guy’s surgeon, and twice vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, while another ancestor, John Hilton, was famous for his series of lectures, published as On rest and pain (George Bell and Sons, 1877).

In 1940 Yates was evacuated to Australia. He returned to attend school in Norfolk and went on to St Thomas’ Medical School with an Old Greshamian bursary, later gaining the Lord Riddell medical scholarship and qualifying in 1953.

After National Service in Kenya, Egypt and the Suez Canal, he became a Member of the College in 1957. He decided on a career in rheumatology, beginning his training at St Thomas’, specializing in locomotor medicine with James Cyriax and electrodiagnosis with Philipe Bauwens [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.32]. He also spent a year with Eric Bywaters [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, web] and Allan Dixon at the Hammersmith Hospital.

He wrote papers on the spine, muscle and neurophysiology. His MD thesis, written in 1963, was entitled ‘Unilateral sciatica with neurological involvement: a correlated clinical and electrodiagnostic study’. In 1965 he won the council prize of the British Association of Physical Medicine for an original paper on epidural myelography – then a pioneering technique for evaluating spine problems.

In 1966 he was appointed consultant in charge of the department of physical medicine at St Thomas’, a department created by the merging of two divisions, electrodiagnosis and orthopaedic medicine. He remained in charge until 1990, when, he felt, radical changes made maintaining traditional standards and priorities difficult to sustain.

After leaving St Thomas’, Yates continued in private practice and was welcomed at St George’s Hospital, where he was much appreciated. He remained there until he retired from clinical practice in 1999.

His administrative skills were also valued. He was director of the school of physiotherapy at St Thomas’, consultant rheumatologist to King Edward VII’s Hospital and honorary consultant adviser in rheumatology to the Army. He was president of the rheumatology and rehabilitation section of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1980 and gave his presidential address on ‘spinal stenosis’. He was president of the British Association for Rheumatology, the immediate predecessor of the British Society for Rheumatology, from 1982 to 1984. He was also effective on committees at the College and at South Thames Region.

Tony was a perfectionist, widely experienced and very practical. He maintained a broad interest in medical locomotor disorders, particularly the application of electrodiagnosis to rheumatological problems. His advice to trainees was held in high esteem and his teaching was in demand internationally. He was one of London’s most sought-after opinions in clinical rheumatology.

He was an affable, popular and respected man, with many interests outside medicine. As a student he was a notable water polo and rugby enthusiast, becoming president of the rugby club. He became an expert sailor, gaining a yacht master’s qualification. After retirement he shared his time and skills with the Citizens Advice Bureau. His horticulture was, like everything he did, meticulous, informed and skilled. It is therefore ironic that he met his death in a gardening accident. He leaves a wife, Gillian, two sons (Tim and Ian), a daughter (Jackie) and seven grandchildren.

J A Mathews

[Rheumatology 2005 44(5):699; Brit.med.J.2005 330 200]

(Volume XII, page web)

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