Lives of the fellows

Alan Samuel Turner

b.6 August 1916 d.20 September 1999
MBE(1981) MB ChB Otago(1939) MRCP(1949) MRACP(1952) FRACP(1961) FRCP(1970)

Alan Samuel Turner was born in Woodville, the second of 7 children. His parents farmed at Puketitri, Hawkes Bay where he grew up. He attended the local primary school and following this was a boarder at Napier Boys High School where he was both deputy head prefect and member of the first XV and first 11 teams. He attended Otago University and obtained his MB ChB in 1939 also being awarded the medical graduates medal in senior clinical medicine. After house physician years at Napier and Hawera hospitals he joined the RNZAF stationed initially in Woodbourne and subsequently in the Solomon Islands (1943-44).

He married Edith Amelia (‘Ed’) Dampney, a registered nurse, in 1940 and they had four children. Two sons pursued medical careers, William a specialist in industrial health, and Geoffrey, a geriatrician.

On being demobilised Sam settled in Napier where he started private practice and was appointed as visiting physician to Napier Hospital in 1946, a position he held continuously until his retirement in 1981. Right from the outset, Sam developed a special interest in cardiology which he followed up during periods of further training in Edinburgh in 1949 and at Harvard where he worked as assistant in medicine for nine months in 1957.

Throughout his life, Sam possessed an enquiring mind and great organizational skill. He established an active cardiology department and, with the late Dick Langley [RACP College Roll], one of the earliest coronary care units in New Zealand. He had the vision to encourage specialists from the main centres to visit Hawkes Bay regularly thus preventing the isolation which might otherwise have occurred. At a later date he also undertook the special care of chest disease cases but all along he maintained a keen interest in the whole field of internal medicine where he proved to be an excellent and inspiring teacher who motivated many of the junior doctors who worked under him to achieve distinction in later years.

He loved company; his and Ed’s lovely home and garden became a regular site for social gathering after the annual ‘Field Days’ which he had organised and to which he almost always invited distinguished physicians from New Zealand and abroad to participate.

He was an executive member of the Cardiac Society of Australia and NZ (1976-82) and a member of the scientific committee of the NZ Heart Foundation (1976-81). He published many papers, chiefly on rheumatic fever and drug trials in hypertension and coronary heart disease and took part in many presentations of these here and abroad, generally making sure that his assistants, both doctors and nurses, were co-participants.

He enjoyed golf, bowls and fishing and boating from his second home on Lake Taupo. His wife died shortly before his retirement and unfortunately during his last 10 years of life he was dogged by ill health.

Apart from his two sons who followed in his footsteps, his nephews, Tim Hull and David Benson-Cooper followed also, Tim as cardiologist and David as radiologist.

P Fleischl

[Reproduced, with permission, from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ College Roll]

(Volume XII, page web)

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