Lives of the fellows

Alan Charles Parsons

b.21 February 1941 d.9 February 2010
MB ChB Bristol(1965) DObst RCOG(1967) DCH(1968) MRCP(1970) FRCP(1997)

Alan Parsons was a consultant paediatrician and head of department at Taranaki Base Hospital, New Plymouth, New Zealand. He was born in Slough, the only child of Harold and Christina Parsons. Alan’s first encounter with medicine was a prolonged 18-month stay in hospital in Oxford with tuberculosis, an experience which led him to choose medicine as a career and which gave him an acute appreciation of the distress felt by children isolated from their families in hospital. Slough Grammar School captured him until he was 19 years old, and it was during this time that he first met Pat, his future wife, who also became a doctor. He was very actively involved in scouting, receiving his Queen’s Scout badge at the age of 15, and continued his involvement through his university years. One of the rewards was the opportunity to travel widely through Europe, including into Communist Russia and East Germany.

He went to medical school at Bristol University in 1960, graduating in 1965. He held house officer posts in Bristol, and was then a senior house officer, a senior resident medical officer and then a medical registrar at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol. He was subsequently a registrar in paediatrics at Southmead Hospital. From 1973 to 1976, he was a senior registrar in paediatrics at Booth Hall Hospital, Manchester. He gained his MRCP in 1970.

In 1966, Alan and Pat married in Saint Laurence’s Church, Slough, the same church his parents had been married in and where Alan had been christened. Their early years together were difficult: as two young busy doctors, they often worked on one-in-two call rotations and were sometimes based at different hospitals. They had to cope not only with work and study, but also with the arrival of their two daughters, Suzanne and Kate.

Alan was appointed as a consultant to the Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, and then moved to New Zealand in 1983, as a consultant paediatrician in New Plymouth. He remained there until his death, 27 years later, spending 20 of those years as head of department. Alan led child health care in the Taranaki region through this time, trying to maintain a holistic public service for children and their families through a variety of political upheavals.

He helped develop a local child accident prevention group, which grew and developed into Kidsafe Taranaki, and was an inaugural member of the Injury Prevention Network of Aotearoa New Zealand. He was rewarded with a citizens’ award from the New Plymouth District Council in 2006, and in 2009 was awarded a medal for clinical service in rural and remote areas from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

In addition to his local and national activities, he became involved in the New Zealand Viet Nam Health Trust and travelled to the country on a number of occasions, teaching and training local clinicians, especially in the area of newborn care. He became a life member of the Trust in 2008.

Everyone knew Alan as a man passionate about paediatrics with a quirky ‘Slough’ sense of humour. He always had time for his patients and their families, often visiting at home if needed. He was a great example to his younger colleagues – as a source of wisdom, support in times of need and reassurance in times of doubt. Many young doctors and medical students were energised by his constant thirst for knowledge, particularly for new aspects of paediatrics and especially for genetics, which fascinated him. ‘Dr P’, as Alan became known by colleagues and patients alike, always had a twinkle in his eye. His curiosity, love of learning and keenness to sort things out directed him through life.

Outside medicine, travel, astronomy, fast cars and breeding Highland cattle all occupied his life, along with watching his daughters grow and move on to their own adventures. Alan was survived by his wife Pat, a medical officer in sexual and reproductive health, his two daughters and three grandchildren (Ben Alan, Emily and Jessica), who brought a whole new sense of wonder and pride to Alan.

John Doran

[New Plymouth Safer Community www.safetaranaki.org.nz/injury-prevention/child-safety/news/tributes-pour-in-for-dr-alan-parsons/?searchterm=Parsons – accessed 24 August 2010]

(Volume XII, page web)

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