Lives of the fellows

Ivo John Carré

b.20 June 1920 d.16 December 2007
BA Cantab(1942) MRCS LRCP(1944) MB BChir(1945) DCH(1950) MRCP(1951) MA(1954) MD(1957) FRCP(1968) FRCPI(1977) Hon FRCPCH(1996)

Ivo Carré was emeritus professor of child health at Queen’s University, Belfast. He was born into a farming family in Guernsey and received his primary and secondary schooling on the island. He left home for the first time to study medicine at Cambridge (Emmanuel College) and was stranded there when Guernsey came under enemy occupation at the outbreak of the Second World War. Unable to receive funds from home, he was fortunate that the Cambridge authorities agreed to give him a loan to continue his education, which he continued to repay for the next two decades. The clinical part of his training was at St Thomas’ Hospital, where he enrolled as a firewatcher, and he sometimes recounted his nights spent on the roof, watching London under attack by flying bombs. His mother died in Guernsey during his enforced exile.

After graduation in 1944, he spent several years in junior posts in and around London, before settling on a career in paediatrics when he took up a post as junior registrar at the Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, in 1950. Four years later he went to Melbourne, Australia, with a clinical research fellowship. There he worked with Charlotte Anderson, who had been a gastro-enterology research fellow in Birmingham, and who would later return to Birmingham as professor of child health. Both were paediatric gastro-enterologists, although with different special interests. Ivo’s was in infants with hiatal hernia (which he always referred to as ‘partial thoracic stomach’ or PTS, eschewing the aetiology implied by ‘hernia’) and in gastro-oesophageal reflux. In this he was greatly helped by the radiologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Roy Astley, who taught him to identify the condition by barium swallow.

He returned to Birmingham from Australia in January 1956, and in September of that year he was appointed as senior lecturer in child health and consultant paediatrician at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, succeeding to the Nuffield chair of child health at Queen’s University in 1963.

He was internationally known for his pioneering work on hiatal hernia/PTS, and his meticulous clinical studies, with long term follow-up for 20-40 years, defining the diagnosis, natural history and conservative management of that condition. He demonstrated that surgery was rarely indicated, and preferred to manage the vomiting infants with help from gravity and thickened feeds. Before the advent of plastic baby seats, he had special casts made to measure by the orthopaedic department out of plaster of Paris, and the infants were kept in a sitting position day and night, until they were able to walk, by which time the great majority had become asymptomatic – even if a demonstrable hiatal hernia remained.

He was a congenial and very well-respected colleague, and as professor in Belfast he did much to restore the reputation of the department and the Children’s Hospital - which was not high at the time of his appointment. In dealing with difficult issues he was polite and non-confrontational, and as the official history of the hospital expressed it: “his views were put firmly but without rancour”. Ivo was a good mentor and a wise counsellor, and was held in high esteem by his juniors, as well as his contemporaries. He was kind, genial and supportive.

He was also a good diagnostician. As a teacher he was precise and didactic, qualities much appreciated by medical students. The same qualities could have been perceived as threatening by final exam candidates had they not been accompanied by his usual warm smile and twinkling eyes. He disliked sloppiness in presentation and could sometimes appear pedantic when he insisted on yet another textual revision before he approved a document or manuscript, but he instilled good habits in his juniors which have remained as a legacy. In the wider world of professional contacts, he was active in making cross-border links with colleagues from the Republic of Ireland, establishing regular joint meetings between the Ulster and Irish Paediatric Societies.

He was much in demand as a visiting lecturer, and spent some months as visiting professor of child health in Ibadan, Nigeria, a sabbatical year cut short by his appointment to the Belfast chair. He was a popular external examiner in many universities in the British Isles and overseas.

During his time in Belfast he came to know and love Ireland, and mostly spent family holidays in the west, fishing and painting. His wife Pamela was always a great support, and they were charming and generous hosts. He retired in 1984, and returned to Guernsey, where he devoted his earlier retirement years to restoring and maintaining the 15th century family farmhouse. He also researched his family history and, with his wife, made many friends on the island, most of whom remained unaware of his distinguished career in medicine until after he died. He is survived by Pam, by his children Philip and Claire, and four grandchildren.

John A Dodge

(Volume XII, page web)

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