Lives of the fellows

Harry Kopelman

b.31 March 1916 d.4 September 2009
MB BS Lond(1939) MRCS LRCP(1939) DA(1940) MRCP(1941) MD(1943) FRCP(1964)

Harry Kopelman was a consultant physician at St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping, and the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, and was postgraduate medical dean for the North East Thames Region. He was born in Marylebone, London, into a Polish émigré family. His father, Max Kopelman, was a tailor who left Poland to avoid conscription into the Russian army. His mother, Milly née Rothberg, (who was born in London) was an accomplished pianist. Harry won a scholarship to the Polytechnic School in Regent Street, London, and after a short period contemplating engineering, he applied for medicine. He was accepted by St George’s Hospital Medical School and, after preclinical studies at King’s College in the Strand, commenced his clinical studies at Hyde Park Corner in 1936.

Harry qualified in 1939 and spent the war years at St George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, as a resident anaesthetist, experiencing first hand the impact of the Blitz on London. After post-war National Service as a squadron leader medical specialist with the RAF in India and Singapore, he worked for Sir John McMichael [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.341] at the department of medicine, Postgraduate Medical School of London, Hammersmith Hospital, investigating circulatory changes associated with cardiac valvular disease and failure.

He was appointed as a consultant physician to St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping, in 1953 and to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, after its opening in 1965. Harry quickly established a reputation as an enthusiastic and dedicated physician. He maintained a keen interest in medical research and education.

He published papers on the management of hypertension with his close colleague Michael Hamilton, and their Epping/Chelmsford rounds became popular local medical events. His seminal paper on the Epping jaundice (Br Med J. 1966 Feb 26;1[5486]:514-6) detailed the painstaking investigation of an outbreak of jaundice in the market town eventually tracked to flour contaminated by a chemical spillage in a courier’s van. The account was subsequently featured as a BBC radio play (The medical detectives: the Epping jaundice).

He became postgraduate medical dean for the North East Thames Region in 1971, combining this role with his consultant responsibilities. Retiring in 1983, his enthusiasm for medicine and the NHS never diminished; he remained a strong advocate of structured and supervised postgraduate training linked to career opportunities. He was a keen supporter of the Royal College of Physicians, attending meetings and the Harveian Oration until his death.

Harry was devoted to his wife, Joan (‘Hazel’), who had been a nursing sister at St George’s. They enjoyed 48 years of happy marriage before Joan’s death in 1995; they were devoted in later years to their family and grandchildren. Harry left two sons, both medical professors, and five grandchildren.

Peter Kopelman

[BMJ 2010;340:2468; Epping Forrest News 2 October 2009 – accessed 21 January 2011]

(Volume XII, page web)

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