Lives of the fellows

Monica Kathleen McAllen

b.30 October 1918 d.29 October 2012
MRCS LRCP(1942) MB BS Lond(1943) MD(1945) MRCP(1945) FRCP(1974)

Monica Kathleen McAllen née Mark was a consultant physician in the chest department at University College Hospital, London. Born in London, she was the step-daughter of Reginald John Mack, a company director, and his wife Kathleen née Hughes, whose father, Francis was a solicitor. Her biological father, Leonard Urch, who was a clergyman, died when she was a baby. Educated at St Albans High School, she studied medicine at London University and University College Hospital (UCH) where she won the Robert Fellowes gold medal for medicine.

Qualifying in 1943, she did house jobs at UCH before moving to the London Chest Hospital where she was trained as a chest physician by Andrew Moreland [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.294]. Two years later, in 1945, she returned to UCH where she became a senior house medical officer in the chest department in 1951. She was beginning to develop a specialist interest in asthma and allergy and became influenced by the research of David Aelwyn Williams [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.540] who discovered that deaths due to asthma were much more common at that time, particularly among young people, than had been realised. Williams had set up an asthma clinic at St David’s Hospital in Wales and, when McAllen had been trained by him, she set up an asthma and allergy clinic at UCH which eventually became London’s largest.

In 1966 (backdated to 1963) she was appointed a consultant physician at UCH and honorary senior lecturer at UCH Medical School. Continuing her research in collaboration with Williams and others, she wrote or co-authored some 30 scientific papers on topics such as inhalation challenge tests in asthma, clinical trials of new drugs in asthma and hay fever and immunological studies in house dust mite asthma. Having taken part in a national study to identify the causes of an increase in asthma deaths in young people in the 1960’s, she published a seminal paper, ‘Mortality from asthma’ (J Roy Coll Gen Pract,1969, 17, 212-8), in which she castigated the medical profession for not taking asthma seriously enough and for not advising their patients to seek help quickly in an emergency and, concluding that ‘They [the patients] must not be allowed to sit at home clutching a useless little can [the bronchodilator aerosol] until they are literally at their last gasp.’

She was president of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology from 1975 to 1978. The following year she retired from UCH but continued to work for five years as an honorary consultant to the chest unit at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.

A keen gardener, she loved flowers, particularly wild ones. Also an accomplished painter, she combined these two enthusiasms in retirement and took up botanical illustration. Having trained with the artist Anne-Marie Evans, she won several prizes for her work from the Royal Horticultural Society and the Society of Botanical Artists and provided 45 illustrations for a book on clematis Clematis: plant portraits of species and selected cultivars, illustrations by Monica McAllen, text by Robin Savill (Lewes, Book Guild, 2001). A founding member of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society, she was also elected to the Society of Botanical Artists. Sadly she had to abandon painting when her eyesight began to fail.

Other activities she enjoyed were attending the opera, listening to music and supporting the preservation of rural England and historic buildings. She was also a wild life conservationist.

In 1942 she married Philip Michael McAllen [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], the son of Henry John Philip McAllen, a schoolmaster. He became a consultant physician with a special interest in cardiology. The marriage ended in divorce. When she died after a stroke, having been fiercely independent and remaining in her own cottage to the end, she was survived by a daughter and son, Robin, three grandchildren and one great grandson.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2013 347 4302 - accessed 20 November 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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