Lives of the fellows

Donald Hindley Makinson

b.8 September 1920 d.21 August 2011
MB BChir Cantab(1943) MRCP(1946) FRCP(1971)

Donald Makinson was director and dean of postgraduate medical education for all Wales, having previously been a consultant physician to the Caernarvonshire and Anglesey group of hospitals in north Wales for 26 years. He was conspicuously successful in each role.

He was born in Farnworth, Lancashire, the son of Horace Makinson, a company director, and Lily née Hindley. He attended Farnworth Grammar School near Bolton, Lancashire, then went on to St John’s College, Cambridge. The story is told that he often would share his mother’s potted beef at Sunday dinner at St John’s with his school friend Ian Thomas Ramsey, who later became the 90th Bishop of Durham.

He held house officer posts at Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he was a house physician under John Crighton Bramwell [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.61]. From 1944 to 1947 he was in the RAF. Unhappily, one day he fell out of a Jeep, apparently being driven by a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and fractured his spine, an injury which was to trouble him from time to time for the rest of his life. For much of his service he was based at RAF Hospital, Wroughton, with the rank of flight lieutenant and had time to study for his MRCP examination.

On returning to civilian life, he sought specialisation in cardiology by being a registrar then a senior registrar at Manchester Royal Infirmary. Thereafter he won a Nuffield scholarship enabling him to be a visiting fellow (therapeutic research) at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Donald achieved his NHS consultantancy at a relatively young age (31) and this led to a Parliamentary question being put by the local MP. No doubt important papers of his published in the Lancet and Circulation in the previous year influenced the selection committee (‘Aetiology and treatment of auricular flutter’ Lancet 1950 Jan 21;1[6595]; ‘Changes in the ballistocardiogram after exercise in normal and abnormal subjects’ Circulation 1950 Aug;2[2]:186-96).

It turned out to be an inspired decision. Donald is fondly remembered throughout Wales as an outstanding physician – for his clinical acumen and his leadership in his specialty in the principality. In his hospital he was ‘first among equals’, with special knowledge and skills, fine bearing and demeanour. He was a positive influence on others, setting a high standard for himself and demanding it of all staff in his wards. In time he became regional adviser (north Wales) for the RCP.

In 1977 the post of postgraduate dean at the Welsh National School of Medicine and director of postgraduate medical and dental education for Wales was advertised on a full-time basis. Donald was appointed and took to the position with enthusiasm. He developed management training for senior registrars in all specialties at a time when this was not the norm, indeed it is likely that Wales was ahead of the field in this respect. He also developed and enhanced the supervisory system for senior registrars. He expanded the postgraduate department, appointing sub-deans in general medical practice, hospital practice and dental postgraduate education.

Donald also initiated the practice of the provost and deans – both undergraduate and postgraduate – visiting each hospital in Wales which trained postgraduates or medical students each year. These tours were a valuable means of maintaining contact with all the hospitals in Wales, added greatly to the influence of the medical school, and improved the supervision and training of medical staff throughout the country.

Music was an important interest and he was an accomplished organist. To keep fit he walked the four miles to and from his home in Glyn Garth and his hospital. He continued to walk to work when he lived in Cardiff, even though the distance was greater. He enjoyed fly fishing.

In retirement he had a number of medical problems which affected him, but he dealt with them with his usual calm patience and fortitude. One example was when he developed acute retention of urine whilst staying in his son’s house in the Loire, France, but he then insisted in driving back to Cardiff for treatment.

He left a wife, Joy Whitnall née Gregory, whom he married 1957, and a son, Simon.

Gareth Crompton
T M Hayes

(Volume XII, page web)

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