Lives of the fellows

George Hugh Apthorp

b.12 August 1922 d.13 June 2009
MB BS Lond(1951) MRCS LRCP(1951) MRCP(1954) FRCP(1974)

George Apthorp was a consultant physician at St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, a general physician with a special interest in cardiology. Before doing medicine, he was in the Army at the height of the Second World War and was involved in the Battle of Arnhem. These experiences, perhaps, gave him an unusually relaxed and tolerant attitude to the frustrations of NHS hospitals and management.

George was born in Harrow, where his father, Hugh Llewelyn Apthorp, was a general practitioner. His mother was Emma née Parsons, the daughter of a timber merchant. After preparatory school in Harrow, George went to Haileybury. He obtained the first MB in 1940, and then served in the Army from 1941 until 1946. After a period in the infantry, he joined the First Airborne Division in 1943. He served in Europe as a glider pilot and then fought in the Middle East.

Following his demobilisation, he trained at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, qualifying in 1951. House appointments were at Bart’s, Chase Farm and Hammersmith hospitals. From 1954 to 1960, he was a registrar to the professorial medical unit at Bart’s. He passed the MRCP examination in 1954, three years after qualifying. In 1961 he held the Catlin research fellowship. From 1961 until 1966, George was chief assistant to Graham Hayward [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.255] at Bart’s and the National Heart Hospital. During this time he published papers on respiratory physiology, including pulmonary diffusing capacity and emphysema, cardiology and pathology. He was a pioneer in exercise stress testing.

Following a myocardial infarction at the age of 43, he left Bart’s to take up his post as a consultant physician at St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead General hospitals. Shortly after his appointment, he had a cardiac arrest in the hospital restaurant. He was resuscitated by his juniors to whom he had just taught the then new closed technique of cardiac massage. The lack of monitoring or coronary care facilities stimulated him to help raise funds to develop coronary care units at both St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, and he helped transform the acute medical units at each site. He led the bedside monitoring of coronary patients, with cardioversion and pacing. The effectiveness of the newly established coronary care units was largely due to him. He contributed very fully to hospital planning and committees, robustly defending medical interests from the inroads of managers. He had a delightful, dry sense of humour, which endeared him to patients and staff. He was a natural teacher whose ease and modesty in imparting his knowledge made him a well-respected colleague.

Medicine was George’s life, and he continued part-time work for 10 years or more after retiring from his hospitals. He was powerfully supported by his wife, Marion Martin née Anderson, a Bart’s nurse. They were a devoted couple and splendid hosts, delighting in parties in their lovely Northwood house. Home, garden and family were his relaxation and joy. They had three sons and a daughter. One of his sons became an orthopaedic surgeon. George enjoyed sailing with his sons, and in later years followed their success at international levels. In spite of some health problems, of which he characteristically made light, his remarkable humour and intellect remained with him until his death at 87.

He was a delightful man with a great gift of friendship, much admired and respected by colleagues, junior medical staff, nurses and patients alike.

David Phear

(Volume XII, page web)

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