Lives of the fellows

John Donald Kinloch

b.22 April 1931 d.10 August 2014
MB ChB Glasg(1953) MRCP Glasg(1959) MRCP Edin(1962) MRCP(1969) FRCP(1977) FRCP Edin(1981) FRCPS(1988)

Donald Kinloch was a consultant physician and gastroenterologist at Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield. He was the son of the Reverend John Alexander Kinloch and Hazel Elizabeth Kinloch née Boyd; his father was a minister of the United Free Church of Scotland, at Dalmellington, Ayrshire, where both his sister Moira and Donald were born. His father soon moved to a charge in Port Glasgow, where Donald spent his early childhood.

He was educated first at Bridge of Weir, then Clifton Hall School, which was evacuated to Amulree. In 1944 he moved to the Leys School, Cambridge, which was also evacuated, to the Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry. Boys from that period recall the sense of freedom they had: they were trusted to wander on their own into the local countryside. He was a prefect, a first class scout and senior patrol leader. Donald also developed a lifelong interest in bird-watching. He was one of a group of boys who found five orphaned sparrowhawk chicks, which they took back to the school to look after until all were fully fledged.

In January 1946 he returned with the Leys to Cambridge and then went on to Glasgow University in 1948, qualifying MB ChB in 1953. He played hockey for the first XI, but his real interest was climbing, and the University Mountaineering Club (the GUM Club) and the weekend bus tours of the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland helped him to get to know the Scottish hills. As a student he worked as a beater on a highland estate. He became a competent rock-climber and winter mountaineer, joined the Scottish Mountaineering Club and climbed in the Alps, Norway and the Pyrenees.

Resident house positions, at the Western Infirmary, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow and the Royal Alexandra Infirmary in Paisley, were followed by National Service in the RAMC. As a captain he was attached to the 24th Parachute Field Ambulance in Cyprus, and was medical officer to the 3rd Parachute Battalion between 1954 and 1956. He joined the Royal Parachute Brigade Mountaineering Club and, through this, he met another officer, James Mills, who was organising a small expedition to the Mount McKinley region of Alaska. With two others they spent six weeks there, climbing four hitherto unclimbed summits. Donald, as their medical officer, carefully monitored their food and fluid intake, weights and energy expenditure for the six weeks at high altitude, often in very adverse weather conditions. He wrote up his findings in ‘The dietary intake and activities of an Alaskan mountaineering expedition.’ (Br J Nutr. 1959;13[1]:85-99).

Back in civilian life, he became a senior house officer in the department of medicine at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, under Leslie John Davis [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.143], then a registrar with Alec Imrie [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.285]. He married Avril Middleton, a medical social worker, in 1958. He moved south in 1962, to the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, where he was a registrar with Leslie Witts [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.618] in the Nuffield department of medicine, then north again in 1964 as a senior registrar at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, under John Anderson Strong [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] in endocrinology and metabolic diseases, and with W Sircus and Wilfrid Ingram Card [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.76] in the recently-formed combined medical and surgical gastrointestinal unit, gaining valuable endoscopic experience there.

In 1968 he succeeded Charles Allan Birch [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.46] at Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield, Middlesex, as a consultant physician specialising in gastrointestinal conditions. Birch, although very much a general physician, had been taught how to perform gastroscopies by Sir Francis Avery Jones [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web]. Birch and Donald were the first gastroenterologists at Chase Farm. Donald found he had to ‘make do’ with sometimes rudimentary equipment and accommodation until, in conjunction with his surgical colleague Max Pemberton, and after active fundraising, a modern endoscopy suite was established with proper equipment. A colleague writes: ‘Donald was ahead of his time – he enthusiastically set up endoscopy services, which he ran with the ‘formidable’ Sister Elizabeth. His protocols for GI bleeding are still basically the ones we use today, and he was always available to carry out emergency procedures during the night’. He also improved the cardiac care services prior to the arrival of a specialist cardiologist. Another colleague writes: ‘he was a very caring physician and a particularly good opinion’.

Many of his junior staff came from Africa and Asia, and he formed lasting friendships as they progressed in their careers in their own countries. When in his later years junior staff hours were cut back drastically, without extra staff to compensate, he and his consultant colleagues experienced more hours and worries than in their own junior years, frequently working regularly on night calls as well as their usual commitments the next day. He retired just as the consultant expansion started, so benefited little from it. He was much missed by patients and colleagues, both in hospital and in the local general practices.

He was a founder member of the North London Gut Club. He edited the hospital’s postgraduate centre journal and formed useful links with postgraduate centres in other hospitals, including University College Hospital, the Royal Free and St Mark’s. He was not an avid ‘committee man’ but did chair the Enfield medical staff committee from 1985 to 1990. He delivered the Allan Birch memorial lecture in 1990 on ‘clinical audit in gastroenterology’. He was wholly committed to the National Health Service, and never did any private practice. He was a fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.

While in Scotland he enjoyed holidays abroad; while in England his love of the hills took him back regularly to Scotland. For 50 years he often joined his university friends among the Munros, and was a leading member of the group, always enlivening a subsequent evening’s proceedings. He was an enthusiastic accordion player.

In his latter years he served on his local church committee and was vice-chairman of the local resident’s association. He enjoyed tennis and golf: one of his school friends, who was a local GP, had a house and tennis court beside the hospital, which enabled them both to meet regularly to exercise, converse and defuse the day’s tensions after work.

Donald retired in 1995 and enjoyed a more relaxed life at his home in Hadley Wood for a few years. He was an intrepid skier. Sadly, during one such holiday in 2002, he had a heart attack, complicated by a catastrophic stroke and profound hemiplegia. Fortunately his mental capacity was unimpaired and, with characteristic determination, he set out to rehabilitate himself. Bit by bit he regained a measure of mobility, adapting the controls of his car. With the devoted assistance of his wife, he was able over many years to continue an active social life. They returned to Scotland in 2009, and both settled quickly into the supportive community of Milnathort. He was a keen chess player, he joined the wheelchair curling club at Kinross and he was instrumental in improving access for the disabled at a local swimming pool. He enjoyed music (classical and folk) and attended many concerts. He continued to live life to the full until his last few months.

He was survived by his wife Avril, their son Andrew and two grand-daughters, Emma and Sophie.

H P Dinwoodie

[BMJ 2014 349 5995 – accessed 18 June 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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