Lives of the fellows

Harold Richard Gamsu

b.23 January 1931 d.31 August 2004
MB BCh Wits(1954) DCH(1959) MRCP Edin(1962) FRCP Edin(1973) FRCP(1984) FRCPCH(1997)

Harold Gamsu was professor of neonatology at King’s College Hospital, London, and a pioneer in the development of neonatal intensive care in the UK. He was born in Windhoek, Namibia, the son of Barnet Isaac Gamsu, a businessman and a Russian Jewish émigré. He was educated at Windhoek High School, and then went on to study medicine at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa.

He was a senior house officer in paediatrics in Johannesburg from 1956 to 1957. In 1959, he went to the UK, as a house physician and then a registrar at the Children’s Hospital in Sheffield, where he trained under R S Illingworth [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.259]. He moved to Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, Ohio, USA. He returned to Namibia, where he was a paediatrician at the State Hospital, Windhoek, between 1963 and 1965. He then went back to the UK, as a senior lecturer, reader and eventually professor of neonatology at King’s College Hospital, London.

At King’s he was responsible for developing the neonatal unit, helping it to become a nationally recognised centre of excellence. He was a founding member, and the first chair, of the South East Thames Regional Perinatal Monitoring Group (RPMG). The RPMG gave advice on maternity and neonatal care to the regional director of public health from 1977 to 1996, and guided developments and improvements in maternity and neonatal services for the whole region.

He chaired the South East Thames Confidential Review into Perinatal Deaths from 1987 until 1992. He also helped secure a regional study into the causes, management and outcome of very low birthweight babies, and initiated a national survey on necrotising enterocolitis.

He was a founder member of the British Association of Perinatal Medicine and its honorary secretary from 1980 to 1983. In 1982 he hosted the association’s annual meeting in London.

He had wide-ranging research interests, including diabetic pregnancy, hypoglycaemia in the neonate, feeding problems in the newborn, infection, the use of corticosteroids to prevent respiratory distress, and the transport of sick pre-term babies. He developed links with neonatal units in many countries, particularly in Lebanon and Greece.

Outside medicine, he was interested in Jewish and African culture and history. He enjoyed music and horticulture. At the time of his election to the fellowship of the RCP in 1984 he listed ‘strolling, gardening, pottering, dabbling and music’ as his interests.

In 1956 he married Sheila Margaret Laverick, the daughter of a builder. They had a son and three daughters. Harold Gamsu died from complications following abdominal surgery. In 2006 a new nursery at King’s College Hospital was named in his honour.

RCP editor

[Brit.med.J., 2004 329 1347; BAPM News Issue No.10, Nov 2004, p.2; The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh www.rcpe.ac.uk/journal/issue/journal_35_1/Obituaries.pdf – accessed 22 March 2011; King’s College Hospital News Archive 2006 www.kch.nhs.uk/news/archive/2006/new-neonatal-nursery/ – accessed 22 March 2011]

(Volume XII, page web)

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