Lives of the fellows

David John Scott

b.4 June 1930 d.4 March 2007
MB ChB Otago(1956) BMedSci FRACP(1972) FRCP(1978)

Those who knew David Scott personally will remember his stooped bespectacled form speaking slowly, gently, and so patiently to the suffering; explaining medical concepts clearly to his students; or sharing experiences and insights with friends and colleagues. For David, time never mattered, people did.

David was born in 1930 in Christchurch. The insecurities of those Depression years took the family to Hutt Valley and then to Otorohanga where his mother taught school until his father obtained work in Auckland. The family settled into a state house in Meadowbank where David became dux of the local school. He moved on to Auckland Grammar School and did well academically, was a librarian, a member of the Chronicle editorial committee.

In sport, he represented the school in athletics in the half mile relay team and was a courageous fullback for the Rugby Second XV. Although without financial backing other than his bursary and holiday earnings, he entered the Otago University medical course….

David was chosen to focus on research and tutoring which led to his B Med Sci degree. He graduated MB ChB in 1956. House surgeon and registrar years were spent at Auckland Hospital. Exemplary case notes in his distinctive legible handwriting reflected the meticulous patient care he delivered then and later.

He worked his passage to England as a ship’s doctor to pursue postgraduate studies at London's Hammersmith Hospital. After the postgraduate course he worked at the General Hospital in Birmingham. Then he returned to Hammersmith to work with the noted New Zealander, Professor Russell Fraser, first as his house physician, then as a research fellow studying new techniques and treatment for diabetes. During this period he gained his MRCP.

He made a return trip to New Zealand to propose to and marry Tig Rix-Trott from Auckland.

A Bank of New Zealand Research Fellowship in the Department of Endocrinology and Nuclear Medicine brought David back to Auckland. On his return journey he stopped in New York and studied the revolutionary new technique of radioimmunoassay of hormones with Drs Yallow and Berson. With their help he was able to introduce this technique to New Zealand. With considerable ingenuity, David’s new laboratory was able to measure growth hormone levels, and later other hormones. The treatment of pituitary tumours with implanted radioactive Yttrium seeds, and management of growth abnormalities, were other contributions he made. Also, he improved the management of diabetic retinopathy utilising retinal photography and fluoroscein angiography.

In Auckland, the family soon settled with John (his brother) and his wife (Tig’s sister) in a joint home on a lifestyle block in Clevedon, Manukau City. Their six children (Rebecca, Tim, Roger, Emma, Serena, and David), along with John’s family, formed an industrious community practising the self-sufficient ‘good life’. Some years later David’s family moved closer to the sea to Kawakawa Bay.

When the Auckland Medical School was founded in 1969, David was appointed as one of the senior lecturers in medicine. Thus were combined his gifts of research, teaching, and clinical work with patients. Some twelve years later, his research convinced him of the serious diabetic problems developing in South Auckland and the necessity of attacking this through a focused team approach based at Middlemore Hospital.

In 1980, he took sabbatical leave and studied developments in diabetes management in Nottingham. On his return he relocated to Middlemore Hospital where he remained until his retirement. By developing close relations between general practitioner, nursing staff, and community workers, he encouraged patients to understand and address their own condition and daily needs. For years his work began at home at a very early hour as patients phoned him to report their morning blood sugar levels and learn the insulin requirements for the day.

Despite such devotion to his calling, David made time for creative expression. He was a purist and lover of nature. He designed and made functional furniture in a minimalistic way that brought out the beauty of the colour, grain, and feel of wood. His small keeler was moored near his home and cruising in it gave him great joy.

In addition to his research papers, he edited several books including a history of Auckland Hospital and later a history of Middlemore Hospital. After retiring he returned to university for courses on literature and writing. He wrote poetry and even edited a book of poems, including one of his own. He had the ability to capture the essence of his thought and subject matter without embellishment. Also, at this time, David’s holistic concern for patients and their families drove him, with much patience and persistence, to negotiate for and establish a multifaith Spiritual Centre at Middlemore Hospital – ‘A Place of Peace for All People’. He faced his own terminal illness with courage and fortitude and died on 4 March 2007.

David was able to be so devoted to his profession because of the unselfish support from Tig, whose faith and strength of character were remarkable throughout. They tragically lost two grown children from traffic accidents, and recently another son from leukaemia. Surviving children are Rebecca, Serena, and David together with nine grandchildren.

D Gray

[Reproduced with some abbreviation and with permission from the Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association 13 April 2007, Vol 120 No 1252. The author thanks the Rev Samuel McCay, a patient and friend; Dr David W Scott, David’s son; and David Scott’s hospital colleagues. Reproduced by the Royal College of Physicians of London, with permission, from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ College Roll]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List