Lives of the fellows

Trevor Stacey Matthews

b.8 April 1934 d.3 August 2010
MRCS LRCP(1958) BChir Cantab(1958) MB(1959) MRCP(1962) FRCP(1978)

Trevor Matthews was a consultant paediatrician in Lancaster and Kendal. Appointed as a single-handed paediatrician, he built up the department to a modern multi-consultant centre providing a comprehensive service to the children of the district. Trevor was born in Eastbourne, but spent most of his formative years in Haverfordwest. Both his parents came from the West Country. His father, Herbert Matthews, was an inspector of taxes and would normally have moved every few years. However, the war intervened and the family stayed in west Wales. Trevor went to Epsom College as a Leverhulme open scholar. At Epsom, he played sports obsessively and normally pretty well. He was an excellent runner who never lost a competitive sprint race. From Epsom, he went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1952, and then did his clinical training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School.

He decided at an early stage in his training that he would be a paediatrician. After house officer posts at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, he did junior posts at Taplow, Hammersmith, St Bartholomew’s and Great Ormond Street. In 1963, he was unusually promoted to senior registrar from senior house officer at Great Ormond Street. His senior registrar appointment included two highly influential years (from 1965 to 1967) at Makerere University Hospital, Uganda, East Africa, as a senior lecturer in paediatrics and, for a period, head of department and professor of paediatrics (pending a substantive appointment). It was there that he developed his interest in tropical paediatrics and published articles in tropical journals.

On his return to the United Kingdom in 1968 he was appointed as a Medical Research Council clinical research fellow and honorary senior lecturer at the Institute of Child Health, London. For three years, he was based in the department of immunology (under John Farrar Soothill [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web]), studying the immune background to cow’s milk protein allergy. He presented papers at the Royal Society of Medicine and the British Society for Immunology and published on cow’s milk allergy and gastrointestinal allergy. He was well set on course for an academic chair in the department of paediatrics, University of Vermont, USA, when a peculiar and undiagnosed neurological illness, with an uncertain prognosis, made it a safer option to stay in the UK.

In 1972 he was appointed as a consultant paediatrician in Lancaster. Initially single-handed, he covered five hospitals in Lancaster and Kendal and, at times of holidays, Barrow too! He described this as fun. He developed the paediatric department, providing neonatal and community services where none previously existed. He negotiated new consultant appointments and offered a comprehensive in-patient and out-patient service. He would not accept delays in out-patient appointments, offering extra clinics and consultations as required, sticking to the Great Ormond Street motto ‘child first and always’.

One advantage of moving to Lancaster was that Trevor could continue his interest in tropical paediatrics at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, where he lectured and subsequently examined. However, he still longed to work abroad, and in 1978 he was granted leave of absence to become a consultant paediatrician at Notre Dame de Fatima Hospital, Tehran, Iran, expecting to undertake postgraduate teaching and conduct a research programme into ‘lymphocyte function in the sera of children known to have zinc deficiency’. Civil unrest and insurrection terminated this appointment, and he was eventually evacuated by the RAF. In 1979, at the request of the UK Overseas Development Ministry, Trevor was seconded for three months to the Turks and Caicos Islands to prepare a report on the future organisation of medical services to this island group. Subsequently, he had annual teaching commitments in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Libya, lecturing and examining, often at a time of war or an emergency. He was awarded the Gilliland fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians and visited McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, to study the therapeutic use of exercise in children.

With R G Hendrickse [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] and D G D Barr, he was co-editor of Paediatrics in the tropics (Blackwell Scientific, 1991).

Trevor moved away from pure clinical medicine into medical administration and in 1981 he became chairman of the medical staff committee of the Lancaster Health District and a consultant member of the district management group. The stress of these administrative appointments, together with a heavy clinical load, took its toll and, at the age of 59, he suffered a myocardial infarction. He retired shortly after.

Retirement gave him time to enjoy his passions, the countryside, his family, his dogs, the perpetual renovation of old houses that was an obsession (all fully hands-on), and his love of gardens, music, literature, architecture and the creative arts. Above all, he was in love with language, and perhaps most satisfaction came in the last decade through his pursuit of poetry. A particular pleasure came from the publication of a collection of poems he co-wrote with two other poets, West coast, north hill (Lancaster, Flaxbooks, 2008), which included some 30 of what he considered his least bad poems (for he was his own harshest critic).

Trevor described himself as a profoundly happy man, quiet, self sufficient and blessed with a wonderful family. He is survived by his wife Vivienne née Howard, whom he married in 1963, two sons, three daughters and 10 grandchildren.

A R Adamson

(Volume XII, page web)

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