Lives of the fellows

Michael Donald Warren

b.19 December 1923 d.25 January 2015
MB BS Lond(1946) DIH(1952) MD(1952) DPH(1952) MRCP(1969) FFCM(1972) FRCP(1975) Hon FFPHM(1991)

Michael Warren was professor of social medicine at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He was born in Worthing, Sussex, the youngest of seven children. His father, Charles Warren, was a managing director. Michael was educated at Bedford School, where he won the Fuller mathematics prize in 1936, 1937 and 1940. In October 1941 he started at Guy’s Hospital Medical School.

After qualifying in 1946, Michael was a house officer and then a senior house officer at Hertford County Hospital. He was called up into the RAF Medical Service in April 1947 and, after preliminary training, served at Henlow and Hucknall. He took a short commission and was posted in October 1947 to RAF Hospital Ely as an acting medical specialist. A year later, with the acting rank of squadron leader, Michael was posted as a senior medical officer to 16 Maintenance Unit Stafford. His next move was to the Air Ministry Unit in London, initially as an acting senior medical officer and then as a group medical officer at 65 Group, RAF Hendon.

Michael left the RAF in 1951 and spent a year on postgraduate specialist studies in epidemiology, public health and industrial medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he obtained his MD, a diploma in public health (with a distinction) and the diploma in industrial health, and was awarded the Association of Industrial Medical Officers’ prize. From December 1952 until 1954 he was deputy medical officer of health at the Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead, and from 1954 to 1958 assistant principal medical officer with the London County Council as the occupational medical specialist for the Council’s staff, including school teachers and members of the London Fire Brigade and the Ambulance Service. During this time he took great pride in visiting the staff he was responsible for in their working environments, in order to understand the rigours of their jobs and so be aware of the level of fitness required. He was driven the wrong way round Trafalgar Square when being taken with a senior fire officer to a fire and, after going down a London sewer, became recognised among the staff as the doctor who ‘got out and about’.

Michael began his academic career in 1958 when he was appointed as a lecturer, later a senior lecturer, in social and preventive medicine jointly at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. At the Royal Free Hospital he was appointed as an honorary consultant in charge of a pioneering resettlement clinic. In 1964 Michael spent three months in the USA on a World Health Organization fellowship. On returning to London, Michael became a full-time reader in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he developed research programmes into the effectiveness and efficiency of health services and into epidemiology of and services for disability and disabled persons.

In 1971 Michael accepted the appointment of professor of social medicine and director of a new health services research unit, which was due to be established at the recently founded University of Kent at Canterbury, together with an appointment as an honorary consultant in social medicine with the South East Thames Regional Hospital Board. Michael retired from full-time employment in 1983, as he always said research workers are supposed to be burnt out at 60! From 1984 to 1986 Michael worked part-time in the department of epidemiology and social medicine at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, and then worked for four years on a research project based at the Royal College of Physicians. From 1987 to 1992 he was an external assessor on the collegiate board of Kent University, advising on the development of degrees and diplomas in nursing, radiography and occupational therapy at Christ Church University College, Canterbury.

Michael was treasurer and later vice-president of the teaching group of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, president of the research group and a member of the Society’s council. During his time at the University of Kent Michael participated in the foundation of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine (then known as the Faculty of Community Medicine) within the Royal College of Physicians, becoming, on its formation in 1972, the first academic registrar with responsibility to formulate the regulations for recognised specialist training and examinations. He was a member, later chairman, of the Regional Hospital Board’s research and development committee and a member of its strategic planning committee; from 1972 to 1976 he was a member of the Council for Postgraduate Medical Education in England and Wales; from 1976 to 1983 a scientific adviser to the chief scientist at the Department of Health and Social Security; and from 1978 to 1990 he was a member of the committee on rehabilitation at the Royal College of Physicians. He was editor of the British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine from 1969 to 1972 and chairman of the Society for Social Medicine from 1982 to 1983. At various times Michael was examiner for medical and nursing degrees and diplomas at the universities of London, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Wales, the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board and the Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

Michael was the author or joint author of over 80 papers published in professional or scientific journals, 15 research reports, 10 books and contributed chapters to seven books.

Michael was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1975, made an honorary member of the Society for Social Medicine in 1985, an honorary member of the section of epidemiology of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1990 and an honorary fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine in 1991. He was awarded the Metropolitan prize of the Society of Medical Officers of Health in 1954 and the J T Neech prize of the Society of Public Health in 1997.

Not only did he do medical research, but he also spent 40 years researching his family history, producing a book for his extended family. This included not only births, marriages and deaths, but a wealth of social history and how each generation fitted into their time in history.

Among his other interest were primroses, fuchsias, roses and spring bulbs, together with many aspects of gardening. He found that the thing that helped his cuttings most was the cover of The Lancet, as it had an opaque side as well as a clear side and fitted well over the cutting and the flower pot.

From the letters of sympathy the family received after his death it is clear he was admired for his extremely high standards in everything he did, his fairness and his ability to gain the respect and loyalty of so many people.

He was survived by his wife, Joan (née Peacock), two daughters (Dorothy and Penelope), many grand and great grandchildren. His son David predeceased him.

Dorothy Harris

[London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Alumni blog: Obituary: Professor Michael Warren – accessed 16 June 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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