Lives of the fellows

Philip Michael McAllen

b.21 May 1916 d.24 February 2009
MRCS LRCP(1941) MB BS Lond(1941) MRCP(1947) MD(1948) FRCP(1968)

Michael McAllen was a consultant physician at West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth. His father, Henry John Philip McAllen, a schoolteacher, died when Michael was 15, leaving the family with very little money. His mother was Edith Anne née Wallace, the daughter of a military tailor. Michael had to make his way into medicine by means of scholarships. He studied medicine at University College Hospital, qualifying in 1941 after the start of the Second World War.

Immediately after completing his first house job, Michael was conscripted into the Army. He often puzzled why the military authorities failed to wait for him to gain the basic surgical training that would have been so useful for a military doctor. He joined as an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was quickly posted overseas. Michael was put in charge of a field ambulance, seeing active service in North Africa and Italy. During the Allied landings at Salerno, he was just missed being killed by heavy enemy fire: he saw the man in front of him die. He survived the war without physical injury, but carried the mental burden common to those who have experienced war. He attained the rank of captain.

On returning home, Michael was fortunate to gain a place in a retraining scheme as a medical registrar at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith. He obtained his MRCP and MD, and then moved as a chief assistant in medicine to the West Middlesex Hospital, where he later became consultant physician with a special interest in cardiology. While at West Middlesex, he published an influential study on the electrocardiographic changes caused by low serum potassium levels, expanding this theme in several later papers on conditions with low serum potassium. In 1967 he played a leading role in establishing a specialist coronary care unit at West Middlesex – a very early example in what was then a district general hospital.

Michael was always meticulous in his work, unsparing of his time and extremely conscientious. After a happy and productive career at West Middlesex, in the 1970s he became increasingly unhappy at the level of administrative interference into the way he cared for his patients, and what he saw as deteriorating conditions under which he had to work. For these reasons he made the decision to retire as soon as he was 60.

During his long retirement he happily pursued his interests, including bird watching, gardening, military history and the appreciation of fine wine. He is survived by his wife June, his former wife Monica McAllen née Urch, also a Fellow of the College, and their son, Robin, and daughter.

Robin McAllen

[Brit.med.J.,2009,339,4019]

(Volume XII, page web)

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