Lives of the fellows

Courtney Hodgson

b.20 January 1929 d.10 January 2015
MB ChB Birm(1951) MRCS LRCP(1951) MRCP(1959) MD(1965) FRCP(1978)

Courtney Hodgson was a consultant dermatologist in Birmingham for 30 years from 1966. He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the younger of two sons to Gordon and Connie Hodgson, and spent the early years of his childhood in Gateshead. At the start of the 1930s, the family relocated to Birmingham, settling in Moseley, where he was to spend most of his life. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he gained a place at King Edward VI Five Ways Grammar School and was briefly evacuated to Monmouth during the Blitz. He returned to spend the rest of the war with his parents in Birmingham, but in 1944, when he was just 15, the family received the devastating news that his brother had been killed in action in northern France.

Shortly after the end of the war, at the age of 17, he began studying medicine at the University of Birmingham. During his time as a medical student he developed his love of rugby, regularly playing for the university team.

After graduation in 1951, he gained experience from a number of junior postings in and around Birmingham before embarking on two and a half years of National Service in the Royal Amy Medical Corps, initially as a medical officer, 22nd Field Ambulance, and then as a regimental medical officer for 15/19th King’s Royal Hussars, British Army of the Rhine, based in Wesendorf, Germany. He very much enjoyed his time in the Army and his posting with a cavalry regiment meant that he took care of both two- and four-legged members of the service.

On his return to Birmingham in 1955 he gained experience in his two main areas of interest – dermatology and pathology – before finally opting to pursue a career in dermatology.

In 1957 he married Thelma Royle Friend, a physiotherapist from Birmingham. The following year he achieved his membership of the Royal College of Physicians and the couple moved to London, where he started work at St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin.

In 1960 he was awarded a Fulbright travelling scholarship giving him the opportunity to continue with his postgraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, working in the world-renowned Durhing Laboratory with Donald M Pillsbury and Albert M Kligman. His research was focused on reviewing the contemporary concepts of psoriasis and investigating the effects of topical corticosteroids on the psoriatic process. The work he undertook was to form the basis of his MD thesis on his return to the UK.

The experience of living in America offered a sharp contrast to the lingering austerity of post-war Britain and provided an excellent opportunity for he and Thelma to travel and explore the US.

His next appointment in 1962 as a senior registrar in dermatology at the Birmingham United Hospitals meant a return to Birmingham. He continued his research and was awarded an MD in 1965 for his thesis entitled ‘Clinical and laboratory studies of psoriasis’.

Throughout his career he balanced his interests in both clinical work and research. In 1966 he was appointed as a consultant dermatologist for the South and West District Birmingham Area Health Authority, a role he combined with a part-time post as a senior lecturer in dermatology at Birmingham University. Much of his time was spent at Birmingham Skin Hospital, which had become a major centre for the teaching of dermatology. It was also renowned for offering a caring and relaxing environment for patients, which he helped to foster.

During this time he was also an honorary member of the scientific staff at Birmingham University’s unit for research on the experimental pathology of skin, where he continued his research into the mechanisms and treatment of psoriasis.

In 1978 his extensive experience in the specialty of dermatology, and particular expertise in psoriasis, was recognised when he was elected as a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

He was a kind and gentle man, and earned a reputation for his care and compassion in his clinical work. He was also meticulous, and paid great attention to detail, spending generous amounts of time with his patients to ensure the correct diagnosis and optimum treatment. In his teaching he was well respected by his students and recognised as a supportive mentor. He was also an active member of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), regularly arranging and contributing to meetings.

Despite his long working hours, he was a devoted family man and enjoyed regular holidays in Wales and the North East with Thelma and their two children, spending time playing golf and walking his dogs.

His retirement from his post as a consultant in 1996 coincided with the final closure of the Birmingham Skin Hospital, but his passion for his specialty kept him closely involved with the Birmingham hospitals and the university, and he regularly attended meetings of BAD. In his retirement he remained a keen sportsman, playing tennis and golf, until he became ill in 2008. He passed away at his home in Birmingham and was survived by his wife Thelma, his son, Peter, and daughter, Joy.

Joy Mitchell
Thelma Hodgson

(Volume XII, page web)

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