b.18 February 1928 d.19 January 2011
BA Oxon(1949) BM BCh(1952) MRCP(1956) FRCP(1971) DM(1976) Hon FRCPCH(1996)
Colin Normand held the foundation chair of child health at the University of Southampton. He was a true all-rounder in all aspects of his life. He was also an excellent paediatrician, not only extremely knowledgeable, but also wise and restrained in the exercise of that knowledge. He was sympathetic and accessible to parents, especially those coping with the traumas of serious illness or disability in their children. Colin did not have to advertise his virtues and appeared devoid of inner turmoil, qualities that made him a natural leader. His quiet, courteous and good humoured style displayed inner strength and inspired respect, loyalty and affection in those who knew him.
Colin was born in Simla, India, where his father, Sir Charles Normand, headed the Indian Meteorological Service. His mother, Alison Normand née MacLennan, was the daughter of a farmer. Colin entered preparatory school in England at the age of five with his eight-year-old brother Alan, after which he saw his parents only once a year in peacetime and not at all in the five years of war. Alan looked after his younger brother and they thrived with the help of relatives in Scotland and family friends near Winchester. Colin won an open scholarship to Winchester College, where he was very happy, going on to become head boy, in which role he welcomed King George VI (in Latin) on his visit to the school in 1946. Thence he won further scholarships to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1946 and subsequently to St Mary’s Hospital, London, in 1950. His sporting prowess was consistent, especially in football, captaining the Winchester College team and his Oxford and London college teams, and in skiing, winning a blue and just missing a medal in the 1949 British national skiing championship. In later life, he continued to enjoy skiing and also rackets and golf.
After qualifying in 1952 and house jobs in London, he did his military service working as a junior medical specialist in Millbank (London), Singapore and Malaya, where he was much involved in the care of children of military personnel. He was first in the order of merit of the junior officer’s course in military medicine. After returning to St Mary’s as a medical registrar in 1959, he made the decision to train in paediatrics. Following junior posts at Great Ormond Street and Queen Charlotte’s hospitals in London, he spent four years as a paediatric registrar then as a senior registrar at University College Hospital. As well as long hours devoted to the care of sick children and new-born infants, in which role his clinical leadership was much appreciated, he spent many hours in the laboratory in the research team brought together by Leonard Strang [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.472]. Publications on the physiology and pathology of the lung in fetal and new-born lambs underpinned the widely recognised development of neonatal intensive care at UCH and fired Colin’s lifelong interest in surfactant and phosphatidylcholines. This later led to a long research partnership in Southampton with Tony Postle, now a professor.
Colin spent a year as a research fellow at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore working with Mary Ellen Avery and Richard Riley on pulmonary function in the experimental animal. A grant from the Aid of Crippled Children in New York enabled him to continue with studies of fetal and new-born lambs on his return to London. He was appointed to the consultant staff at UCH in 1969 and took up the foundation chair at the new Southampton Medical School in 1971. His application for that post was characteristically succinct and understated, running to six sides of A4 in total. In it, he emphasised the need for the creation of more academic units to enable continued progress in paediatrics and to provide the highest standards of clinical care for the sick child. He also wrote of the importance of an active scientifically-based research programme and of the need to involve not only paediatricians but also those with other perspectives into undergraduate teaching of child health.
Colin did much to achieve those goals in his 22 years as head of his department and then, in the early 1990s, as dean of the faculty of medicine in Southampton. His exemplary leadership of his clinical department imbued it with an ambience of harmony and calm reasonableness. He worked hard to enable his colleagues and juniors to define and achieve their own goals rather than telling them what to do. In committee work, he encouraged reasoned contributions from all, and rarely failed to achieve agreement. His skills as a chairman were therefore much in demand on regional and national committees. His research contributions to respiratory physiology were substantial. He also led the initiative to introduce penultimate year medical students to research with the 20 week study-in-depth that became one of the defining features of Southampton medical education and has since been widely emulated.
At the start of his military service in 1954, he had received basic paediatric training from Jean Smellie, a young paediatrician. Their paths crossed again at UCH in 1960. They married shortly thereafter and remained so for the remaining 50 years of his life. As well as a close and happy family life and a love of Scotland, music and opera, they shared professional interests and published extensively together.
The wholeness of Colin’s life was well expressed at his funeral, in the beautiful choir of the cathedral in Winchester, where his school had provided much of the bedrock of his own character and where he had lived for the last 40 years of his life. It was clear how universal and deeply felt were the respect, loyalty and affection for him among the many family, friends and colleagues who came together to remember him. Colin was an excellent paediatrician, academic, leader and family man. His integrity, intelligence, generosity and good manners were the epitome of a scholar and a gentleman. He was just who he appeared to be, all the way through.
Colin was predeceased by one grandchild and was survived by Jean, his children Alison, Christopher and Caroline and seven grandchildren.
C R Kennedy
[Brit.med.J., 2011 342 3056]
(Volume XII, page web)
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