Lives of the fellows

David Robert Harvey

b.7 December 1936 d.10 April 2010
MB BS Lond(1960) MRCS LRCP(1960) DObst RCOG(1962) DCH(1963) MRCP(1963) FRCP(1976)

David Robert Harvey was a leading figure in paediatrics and neonatal medicine. Besides being paediatrician at four Royal confinements, he was a champion for the disadvantaged and, above all, an advocate for mothers and babies.

Born in Bromley, he was the son of Cyril Francis Harvey, a diamond merchant. Educated at Dulwich College, he studied medicine at London University and Guy’s Hospital. Qualifying in 1960, he did house jobs at Guy’s before moving to the Hammersmith Hospital as registrar, and eventually senior registrar in paediatrics from 1963 to 1970. While there he trained with some notable neonatal physicians including Pamela Davies [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], Peter Tizard [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.518], Otto Woolf at Great Ormond Street and John Davis and Geoffrey Dawes [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.99] at the Nuffield in Oxford.

Appointed consultant paediatrician to Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital in 1970, he was also appointed to St Charles’ Hospital the following year. It was a time when the specialty of neonatal medicine was just emerging and the care of newborn babies was advancing rapidly from a position in which very few babies born more than eight weeks premature survived. Indeed, he was at the forefront of training doctors in the new specialty, particularly when the charity for premature babies, ‘Bliss’, was set up in 1979 and he became a member if its first medical advisory committee. A champion of research into issues not necessarily considered mainstream, he continued to advocate breast milk banks even after the advent of Aids closed many and, very early on, he stressed the need for hospitals to provide residential facilities for the mothers of sick babies.

He was paediatrician at the confinements of Princess Anne in 1977 and 1981, and HRH the Princess of Wales in 1982 and 1984. The author of many scientific papers on general and neonatal paediatrics, he wrote, or contributed to, some 15 books including, The baby book (London, Marshall Cavendish, 1975), with C J H Kelnar The sick newborn infant 2nd ed (London, Bailliere Tindall, 1987) and New Parents (London, Hamlyn, 1988).

Holding office in many professional bodies and known for his tact and courtesy, he was instrumental in helping set up the new Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 1996, and was awarded their James Spence medal in 1999 for ‘outstanding contributions to the advancement of paediatric knowledge’.

Never afraid to disclose his homosexuality, in spite of the homophobia in his profession prevalent at the start of his career, he was a founding member, first treasurer, and co-chair of GLADD, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists. He was also a director of the Terence Higgins Trust, the charity set up in 1982 to support those at greatest risk of suffering from Aids.

He loved the opera, the arts and good food and wine, but he was also a Buddhist and a socialist. He thoroughly enjoyed his life and his profession, but did not omit to champion the cause of those less fortunate.

In 1998 he retired from the Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte’s due his increasing disabilities from Parkinson’s disease. He was made emeritus professor of paediatrics and neonatal medicine at Imperial College, London. His long term partner, Teck Ong, died in 2004 when he was becoming increasingly frail and he was cared for by his cousin, Anthony Stranger-Jones, who survived him when he died of a chest infection.

RCP editor

[The Guardian; BMJ 2010 341 6773 - both accessed 27 May 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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