Lives of the fellows

William Morris Dixon

b.24 October 1923 d.20 April 2013
MB BS Lond(1947) MRCP(1952) DIH(1962) MFOM(1978) FFOM(1979) FRCP(1982)

William Morris Dixon, known as ‘Bill’, was head of medical services at the John Lewis Partnership and a former president of the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM). He was born in Ealing, London, the son of John Martin Dixon, a civil engineer. He was educated at Blundell’s School, and then went on to study medicine at Guy’s.

As a medical student during the Second World War he showed immense courage in turning the potential disaster of contracting pulmonary tuberculosis to good effect, despite there being no antibiotics to treat his illness. He decided on a career in chest medicine, and held posts at the Red Cross Sanatoria at Tor-na-Dee, Scotland, in Birmingham, and then at Hammersmith Hospital, at the Postgraduate Medical School of London.

His interest in the causes of lung disease in Welsh coalminers later drew him to occupational medicine. After service with Esso, he became medical director of the occupational health service in Dundee. He went on to Fisons, as group industrial medical officer, and then Chrysler (UK), as medical director. In 1970 he joined John Tyzack and Partners, a recruitment consultancy, until 1973, when he joined the John Lewis Partnership as head of the medical services, his happiest years.

He was particularly interested in the psychological factors which have an effect on individuals and on the organisations in which they work.

Throughout his career he was vigorously engaged in professional activities, as a council member of the British Medical Association (and chairman of its occupational health committee), as president of SOM, and in the foundation of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, where he had a great influence on the development of his specialty. He was particularly valued as an innovative administrator, enthusiastically using his financial expertise to help organise the annual scientific meetings of SOM.

It is typical of the man that as soon as he retired he helped found the Retired Fellows’ Society within the Royal Society of Medicine. In 2007 he wrote an article in Occupational Medicine describing his enjoyment of the challenge of working in a wide variety of industries (‘Why I became an occupational physician…’ Occup Med [Lond] 2007 57[3]:231).

In all these activities his wife Gay (Gabrielle Dixon née Buxton), whom he married in 1951, was a constant and well-known companion. Tragically, they were both killed in a car accident. They were survived by their two sons, Christopher and Peter.

Joe Kearns

[The Society of Occupational Medicine – accessed 20 August 2013; The Bucks Free Press 30 April 2013; The Daily Mail 3 May 2013]

(Volume XII, page web)

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