Lives of the fellows

Roger Henry Secker-Walker

b.22 April 1935 d.8 June 2008
BA Cantab(1955) MB(1959) BChir(1960) MRCP(1963) FACCP(1975) FACP(1981) FRCP(1985)

Roger Henry Secker-Walker was director of the office of health promotion research at the college of medicine, University of Vermont, USA. By becoming a doctor, Roger followed a family tradition dating back to 1697. His father Geoffrey, a general practitioner, his grandfather, Henry, a Leeds ophthalmic surgeon who successfully operated on the Sussex cricketer Prince Ranjitsinhji in 1915, his great uncle and two first cousins once removed (one of whom was Robert Milnes Walker, professor of surgery in Bristol), had all trained at University College Hospital, London (UCH). Roger himself gained a first class natural sciences degree at Clare College, Cambridge, and then went on to UCH, where he was awarded the Fellowes silver medal for medicine. He gained his membership of the College in 1963.

After junior posts at UCH, he became a registrar and lecturer at the medical school under Max Rosenheim [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.394], and his potential for academic research began to be realised. At a time when registrars did much of the teaching and bedside clinical training, he was a superlative teacher. As a student one was dimly aware that the medical unit was full of extraordinarily bright and innovative young researchers, but they were also excellent doctors and teachers who were a splendid example to us all. Roger was right at the cutting edge of clinical research, being one of the pioneers of isotope functional imaging of the lungs and kidney.

In 1971 he was offered a senior research fellowship at the Mallinckrodt institute of radiology, Washington University, St Louis, Missouri, and he later became acting director. Two years later, in 1973, he was board certified in nuclear medicine. He subsequently became the first head of the pulmonary division at St Louis University Hospitals. He established a very successful fellowship programme there and won two teacher of the year awards.

In 1981 he was asked to become director of the Vermont lung center at the University of Vermont, Burlington, and in 1983 became director of the office of health promotion research, recruiting and sustaining a multi-disciplinary team that did groundbreaking work in programmes leading to smoking prevention and cessation. He demonstrated (amongst other research) that targeting anti-smoking propaganda to some isolated communities and not to others reduced the smoking rates amongst the young people targeted.

Throughout his career in the USA he was retained as a consultant or attending chest physician and, in addition, at one time or another, sat on 45 national committees.

After he retired, he and his wife travelled extensively, and he was able to tend his much-loved garden in Burlington, Vermont. He died from prostate cancer and leaves a wife, Jocelyn, a son and a daughter, and a granddaughter.

Jonathan Secker-Walker

[Brit.med.J.,2008 337 1219]

(Volume XII, page web)

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