Lives of the fellows

Gavin Brown Shaw

b.24 May 1919 d.11 November 2007
CBE(1981) BSc Glasg(1939) MB ChB(1942) MRCP(1947) FRFPS(1950) MRCPS(1962) FRCPS(1964) MRCP Edin(1964) FRCP(1965) FRCP Edin(1969) Hon FACP(1979) Hon FRCSI (1979) Hon FRCPsych(1980) Hon FRCGP(1980)

Gavin Shaw was a physician and cardiologist at Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, who made a major impact on clinical cardiology services and medical education in Scotland.

He was born in Glasgow, the son of Gavin Shaw, a whisky manufacturer and blender, and Christian Douglas Shaw née Cormack, the daughter of a banker. He was educated at Glasgow Academy and Glasgow University, where he graduated BSc in 1939 and MB ChB in 1942. At university he played a major role in the Students’ Representative Council, as the secretary and president, showing early his organisational talents.

After graduation he joined the department of the Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir John McNee [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.317] at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, as a house physician and later as a clinical tutor. He helped support McNee’s aim of improving the academic standards of the medical school.

Shaw’s time at the Western was interrupted by the Second World War. He was commissioned as a surgeon lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served in the Far East and Pacific until 1946.

Following his demobilisation, he returned to Glasgow, and in 1948 he was appointed as a senior registrar at the Southern General Hospital. He became a medical consultant there in 1956, and consultant in charge of wards in 1963.

As a former Poor Law institution and set in an area of social deprivation, the Southern General was a difficult environment in which to develop clinical services, but Shaw remained a passionate supporter of the NHS. During his tenure, he developed the cardiology services, including establishing a coronary care unit (CCU) and creating a 24-hour resuscitation team. The creation of the CCU provided a stimulus for similar units to be developed in many other centres in Scotland. Shaw also developed the Southern General as a major centre for cardiac pacing in the West of Scotland. In addition, joint services were encouraged with the cardiac surgical services led by Bert Barclay at Mearnskirk Hospital.

Medical education remained a major interest, following his early work with McNee at the Western Infirmary. From 1963 Shaw developed a pioneering series of television programmes on postgraduate education, producing 70 episodes over a seven-year period. The experience and knowledge he gained made him a much sought-after speaker, and in 1965 he travelled extensively as a World Health Organization fellow.

In addition to his hospital work, Gavin Shaw was also a key figure at the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. He served two periods on the council, and was then honorary secretary from 1957 to 1965. He was a major driver in the move in 1962 to raise the faculty to the status of a Royal College. He was subsequently visitor and then president (from 1978 to 1980). At a UK-wide level, he served on the National Medical Consultative Committee, on the executive committee and on the subcommittee for medicine.

He was also a fellow of the Edinburgh and London Royal College of Physicians, and was made an honorary fellow of the Irish Royal College of Physicians, of the American College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners and of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He was appointed CBE in 1981 in recognition of his services to the medical profession.

He had an enormous work ethic, illustrated by his arrival as the first consultant in the hospital each morning. In this he inspired his junior staff, to whom he was always a great source of advice and support.

As a young man he enjoyed dinghy sailing and walking, and in later life reading and oil painting. He married Margaret Mabon Henderson in 1943. She was a great support to him, and to their son and two daughters. Predeceased by his wife, son (John) and a daughter (Barbara), he was survived by a daughter, Carol, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

W S Hills

[Brit.med.J.,2008 336 223; The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh www.rcpe.ac.uk/publications/obituaries/2007/shaw.php – accessed 7 January 2013; The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow archives www.rcpsg.ac.uk/library/archive-services/archive-collections/shaw-dr-gavin-1919-2007-cardiologist.aspx – accessed 7 January 2013]

(Volume XII, page web)

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