Lives of the fellows

Rodney John Ellis Dathan

b.9 October 1940 d.20 July 2015 MRCS LRCP(1964) MB BS Lond(1964) MRCP(1967) MD(1974) FRCP(1980)

John Rodney Ellis Dathan (‘Rod’) was a consultant physician in Southampton and Lymington. He was born in Stoke-on-Trent to Joseph Gilley Dathan, a consultant paediatrician at the North Staffordshire Royal infirmary, and his wife Ruby. He attended Wolstanton Grammar School and first left home to start his medical studies at the London Hospital Medical College. After qualifying in 1964, all his junior medical training was at the London Hospital. He was a house physician on the medical unit, a house surgeon in the orthopaedic department, then a lecturer and senior lecturer back on the medical unit.

During his training at the London, Rod worked under Jack Ledingham [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.311] and Clifford Wilson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.524]. It was here that he developed his lifelong interest in renal medicine and hypertension. His MD, accepted in 1974, was entitled ‘Body water and the electrolyte composition in clinical uraemia and its relationship to renal hypertension’. He was instrumental in establishing renal dialysis at the London when it was very much in its infancy. He was an enthusiastic member of the Renal Association.

In 1972 Rod obtained his first consultant post as a consultant with senior lecturer status at Southampton General Hospital and the Portsmouth Renal Unit. He was, however, always more of a clinician than an academic and in 1975 he moved to another post as a consultant physician at the Royal South Hants and Lymington hospitals. He provided the renal medical service to Southampton hospitals, including peritoneal dialysis, and developed close links with the renal dialysis/transplant unit in Portsmouth.

Rod was an enthusiastic teacher and at the Royal South Hants he established, along with his colleagues, a teaching programme that was the envy of the larger Southampton General Hospital and attracted many students to the presentations. These took place in the evening and were normally accompanied by refreshments. He established a joint meeting with the physiology department at the medical school, during which students presented a suitable clinical case, which was then unravelled in physiological terms by a pathologist. These sessions were very popular. In a novel twist, he pitted his students against a local consultant to see who got the diagnosis right. It was surprising how often the medical students triumphed!

Rod started an annual advanced medicine conference, which he hoped would attract busy general physicians who wanted to update their knowledge. The course attracted physicians from all over the country and it is a tribute to its success that delegates returned year after year and that the course went on for ten years. He also established an annual ICI lecture, to which all the consultants and academics were invited. Afterwards a black tie dinner was held. Speakers included Sir Douglas Black [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.62], Sir James Black [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], Sir Raymond Hoffenberg [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] and Sir Patrick Moore. As well as being informative, it drew together the hospital staff in a very convivial atmosphere.

When the Royal South Hants Hospital closed to acute medicine admissions, he was moved to the General Hospital. In his new environment he became more involved in medical administration and was a well-regarded clinical director of the medical unit and for a period one of the ‘three wise men’.

Taking over Lymington Hospital, Rod transformed the set up. He improved the teaching to such an extent that a hitherto rather unpopular place became very popular with both staff and medical students. He introduced audit to the hospital when it was a very new concept. He believed that excellent medical care could be provided in a small hospital, succeeded in providing it and laid the foundations for the later establishment of the impressive new hospital.

Following his retirement, Rod continued to work with the postgraduate dean’s office until he was 70. He was also able to indulge in other interests and he attended Brockenhurst College and obtained certificates in wine and cooking. His great passion was football and in particular Southampton Football Club, where he was a season ticket holder for over 30 years. A generous man, he once had three season tickets at the club, two of which he provided for the use of junior staff at the Royal South Hants Hospital.

He was married for 49 years to Helen (née Beckett), his childhood sweetheart, and they had three children. He was survived by Helen and his two sons (Chris and Paul), but his daughter, Susie, tragically predeceased him by a few weeks. He also had seven grandchildren. They all lived within ten miles of his house and he loved nothing better than a family barbeque with a glass of good wine.

Rod was a respected and generous colleague who will be missed by his family and the many doctors he trained and the patients he cared for.

Brian Leatherdale

[BMJ 2015 351 4795 www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4795 – accessed 1 February 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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