Lives of the fellows

Keith Douglas Lee

b.4 July 1941 d.27 August 2007
BA Oxon(1962) DPhil(1965) BM BCh(1967) MRCP UK(1970) MD Birm(1974) FRCP(1981)

Keith Lee was a consultant physician at Warwick Hospital and at Warneford Hospital, Leamington Spa. He was an extremely popular and was liked and admired by his consultant colleagues and the nursing staff. He was also highly regarded by those he loved to teach, namely the junior doctors and the medical students.

Keith was born in Stockport, Cheshire, and attended Stockport Grammar School. He gained entry to St John’s College, Oxford, as the Casberd exhibitioner in physiology. His early academic career was outstanding. He gained a BA with first class honours in animal physiology. Three years later, he was awarded a DPhil for research carried out in Oxford and Chicago into the working of aortic and carotid body chemoreceptors. But, despite these academic successes in animal physiology, he then decided to enter medicine. Only two years later he gained his BM BCh, again at Oxford.

His house physician and house surgeon appointments were at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham with George Whitfield [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.530] and Paul Dawson-Edwards. He then spent an extra six months as a house physician in paediatrics at Dudley Road Hospital, Birmingham, before being appointed as a senior house physician in medicine to Michael Priest [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.383] and V F Weinstein at Warneford Hospital in Leamington Spa. This appointment lasted 18 months and during that time he passed his examination for the MRCP.

In January 1971 he became a registrar in medicine back in Birmingham to Sir Melville Arnott [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.29] and John Bishop. Only eight months into this post he became the MacKenzie MacKinnon Streatfield research fellow (Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Surgeons of England). The subject of his MD thesis was the role of peripheral chemoreceptors in the control of ventilation.

In 1973 he became a lecturer in medicine and honorary senior registrar in the department of medicine at Birmingham. His senior training was wide-ranging. He worked in general medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and at the Birmingham Chest Clinic, and he looked after endocrine patients under the aegis of Raymond Hoffenberg [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web]. He was also responsible for running the clinical pulmonary function laboratory. In 1975 he was appointed as a consultant physician, taking over the post vacated by Stephen Whittaker [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.595] at both the Warneford and Warwick hospitals.

Throughout his career he enjoyed teaching and took a particular interest in the senior house physicians training for the MRCP at both Warneford and Warwick hospitals. He taught students of all grades, nurses, anaesthetists and physicians. His MRCP teaching sessions were particularly popular.

At Warneford Hospital in Leamington Spa and at Warwick Hospital he was one of the last true general physicians. In his application letter for the post, he particularly stressed the fact that he wished to be a general physician, and the breadth of his training had given him that capability.

Although his clinical skills greatly benefitted Warwick Hospital, he gave so much more to the institution. He was at various times chairman of the medical division, a member of the ‘wise men’ panel, vice chairman of the Warneford Hospital medical board, vice chairman of the medical executive committee, deputy consultant member of the district management committee, chairman of the medical executive committee, chairman of the medical directorate and audit organiser.

Outside the hospital, he was a member of the regional medical services committee and a member of the executive committee of the West Midlands Physicians Association. He was invited to sit on many complaints committees at a variety of hospitals and was the Royal College of Physicians’ representative on many advisory appointment committees. During those years his advice to junior consultants was greatly sought after and he helped many a colleague to keep their consultant career on course.

Outside medicine he was happily married to Christina (née Reeves), with whom he had a son and a daughter. He was a keen fly fisherman and one of his other particular interests was archaeology. He and Christina spent many holidays on archaeological sites in Scotland and the Mediterranean, helping with the ‘dig’.

Unfortunately, he retired due to ill health after a small stroke and his aspirations for a long retirement, fishing and ‘digging’ were cut short by cerebrovascular disease.

He will be remembered in Warwickshire for many things: for his excellent skill as a general physician, for his renowned teaching and for his jovial ‘character’ on ward rounds (something which is still talked about in the hospital by the nursing staff who knew him). A measure of the esteem in which he was held is the fact that at Warwick Hospital a new out-patient facility has been named in his honour: the ‘Keith Lee suite’.

Peter M Horrocks

(Volume XII, page web)

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