Lives of the fellows

Alex Margaret Hendrick

b.30 December 1945 d.1 November 2008
MB BS Lond(1968) MRCS LRCP(1968) MRCP(1972) MRCPath(1982) FRCPath(1994) FRCP(1996)

Alex Margaret Hendrick was a consultant haematologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead. She was born Alex Margaret Falconer in Dunedin, New Zealand, but the family to moved to Bromley in Kent when she was four. Her father, Murray Alexander Falconer, was appointed head of neurosurgery at Guy’s Hospital and she herself entered Guy’s Hospital Medical School in 1963, qualifying in 1968.

In the same year she married David Hendrick, a chest physician, who later became a Fellow of the College, and they moved together to Newcastle upon Tyne, where she became a house physician at Newcastle General Hospital. In 1969 they returned to London, where, among other posts, she was a casualty officer at Guy’s Hospital.

The following year Alex and David moved to Australia, where she worked as a registrar at Sydney Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital. The couple returned to London in 1972, where she worked for a time in general practice. The following year their first daughter, Vicki, was born and the family moved to Oxford. Here Alex became a research fellow in child development and subsequently a senior registrar in haematology. During this period she had a three-month sabbatical at Ceza Lutheran Mission Hospital in Zululand.

A further change of country followed in 1975, when the family moved to Morgantown in West Virginia and Alex became consultant haematologist and oncologist at the West Virginia University Medical School. That year her second daughter Shona was born. Another move took place in 1979 when the family went to New Orleans and Alex became consultant haematologist and oncologist and director of the plasmapheresis unit at Tulane University Medical School.

In 1982 the Hendricks returned to Newcastle and Alex had a series of locum appointments in oncology, haematology and general medicine, becoming an accredited specialist in all three spheres. In 1984 the family moved to Wylam in the Tyne Valley, Northumberland, which was to be their home until Alex’s death.

She was appointed as a consultant haematologist at South Tyneside District Hospital in 1984 and worked there for 19 years, with the exception of a sabbatical year in 1999 which she spent in Montreal, researching into the role of hox genes in acute myeloid leukaemia.

In 2003 she moved as consultant haematologist to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, and following her 60th birthday in December 2005 she continued on a part-time basis, working three days a week until she was herself diagnosed as having acute myeloid leukaemia just before Christmas 2007. She had been due to retire fully in February 2008.

Alex was a loyal, dynamic and innovative colleague. She inspired a number of policy reviews in both her consultant posts on Tyneside, and these led to significant changes in practice for the benefit of patients. Her focus was always on patient care and she was known as a totally dedicated clinician who commanded both respect and love from her patients. This was reflected in the number of her patients who attended her funeral and in the many letters, emails and cards which David received from patients after her death.

As a colleague she could be uncompromising, but this was a reflection of her dedication to high standards of patient care. We greatly appreciated her decision to continue working part-time to support the haematology service in Gateshead and we regret that she was unable to enjoy a period of full-time retirement. Nevertheless, while working part-time she was able to find more time to indulge her favourite hobbies, the greatest of which were golf, tennis, skiing, badminton and gardening. Alex had a very rich social life based around her family and village community. She was generous, sociable and fond of hosting parties, to which many friends and colleagues were invited.

Alex remained remarkably fit throughout her life and when younger had taken part in the Great North Run. She had also taken part in sail boat racing in Sydney and New Orleans, as well as playing golf, tennis and badminton. She became a children’s badminton coach in Wylam, ladies’ captain of Close House Golf Club and president of Wylam Tennis Club.

Her more sedentary interests included painting, playing the piano, reading, attending the theatre and being a member of bridge groups in Wylam. Also in the village, she organised donkey rides at the village fete and a ‘spook’ garden for local children at Halloween.

Family holidays were usually active and varied, including skiing in Europe and North America, sailing in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Seychelles and boating on French canals. They also visited the Galapagos, Peru, Hawaii, Egypt, China, India, Bhutan and Venice.

It was a sad irony that Alex’s life was cut short by leukaemia after she had studied this disease for all her professional life and cared for large numbers of patients suffering from the disorder. She showed characteristic courage and endurance while receiving intensive chemotherapy and an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant. Unfortunately a few months later her disease relapsed and Alex opted for no further active treatment, dying peacefully at home with her family about four weeks later.

Despite her illness there were positive events to enjoy in 2008, including her 40th wedding anniversary, her first daughter’s wedding and the birth of her first grand-daughter. The village church was packed for her memorial service, featuring moving contributions from a number of family members. In her 62 years she made important contributions to medicine in a number of different countries and will long be remembered with affection and respect by her friends, colleagues and patients.

Geoffrey Summerfield

(Volume XII, page web)

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