Lives of the fellows

Donald Barltrop

b.26 June 1933 d.30 July 2009
BSc Lond(1953) MB BS(1956) DCH(1959) MRCP (1961) MD(1965) FRCP(1974) FRCPCH(1997)

Donald Barltrop was professor and head of the department of child health, Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School from 1984 until his retirement in 1998. He was born in Cowley, Middlesex, the son of Albert Edward Barltrop, a cashier, and Mabel Barltrop née Redding. He studied medicine at Charing Cross Medical School, and held house posts at Charing Cross and the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street.

During his National Service (from 1959 to 1961), he was a medical officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps stationed at Tidworth barracks on Salisbury Plain. After gaining his MRCP in 1961, Donald was promoted to the rank of captain and was appointed as a junior specialist in medicine.

His long association with St Mary’s Hospital began as a registrar in paediatrics from 1961, progressing to reader in paediatrics and assistant director of the paediatric unit in 1975. This association was interrupted for a year (from 1963 to 1964) when he was a Fulbright scholar and senior resident at Harvard University and the Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1978, Donald moved across London to take up the appointment as reader in paediatrics and honorary consultant paediatrician at Westminster Children’s Hospital, where he remained until this hospital closed prior to the relocation of the department of child health of the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School to the new Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Donald’s MD thesis was on lead poisoning in children, a subject on which he became recognised internationally as a world expert and on which he advised national bodies, both in Europe and America. His expertise in mineral metabolism subsequently extended to include cadmium, nickel and strontium, and he published widely on these topics. With Frederic Brimblecombe [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.55] he wrote a standard text on paediatrics, Children in health and disease (London, Baillière, 1978). Donald was editor of the Postgraduate Medical Journal for five years from 1976, and served on the editorial boards of several international journals. Both in the UK and overseas, Donald was an examiner for the MRCP clinical examination for a number of years.

Donald was a great raconteur. His weekly teaching rounds for medical students at Westminster Children’s Hospital became famous for his wealth of anecdotes, which he used to illustrate aspects of cases on the ward. He also entertained his clinical lecturers with further amusing accounts as he smoked his pipe in his office, often until quite late in the evening. No-one had the temerity to tell him that he and his pipe were responsible when he complained about the yellowing of the ceiling above his desk. Donald earned great loyalty and affection from his staff as a result of his sense of humour, his congenial approach to life, and his unstinting support for the young doctors on his team.

Donald was devoted to the Worshipful Company of Barbers, being admitted as a liveryman in 1978 and subsequently being elected to the court in 1988; in 1995 he was master barber.

Outside medicine, Donald’s great passion was sailing and he frequently invited members of his junior clinical staff to join him and his wife Mair (née Edwards) as crew on Mairadon, his 32-foot Sadler yacht moored at the upper end of Portsmouth harbour. More than one junior resident was introduced by Donald and Mair to the art and science of sailing at the ‘University of the Solent’, as he liked to call it.

Following his retirement, Donald and Mair travelled widely, investigating wildlife in the Arctic, South America and the Pacific islands. His health failed him towards the end, restricting many of his activities and he died two days before his golden wedding anniversary in 2009. He was survived by Mair and their two sons and a daughter.

Peter B Sullivan

[Brit.med.J., 2010 340 1815]

(Volume XII, page web)

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