Lives of the fellows

Ivan Arthur Williams

b.7 June 1928 d.29 January 2017
MB BS Lond(1956) DPhysMed(1959) MRCP(1959) FRCP(1975)

Ivan Arthur Williams was a consultant in rheumatology and rehabilitation for the Tunbridge Wells Area Health Authority from 1972 to 1992, and then medical director of the Horder Centre for Arthritis in Crowborough from 1992 to 1997.

He was born in London, the son of Arthur Williams, an engineer, and subsequently grew up in Sunbury-on-Thames, the middle child of three brothers. He was educated at Hampton Grammar School and then embarked on National Service in the Royal Artillery from 1946 to 1948. He entered Middlesex Hospital as a medical student in 1948, but six months later was found to have contracted tuberculosis. After a spell as an inpatient, he was sent to a clinic in Davos for recuperation. He re-entered the medical school in 1950 to commence this training once more. He won the Fitton orthopaedic prize in 1956, shortly before qualifying with the MB BS.

After completing his pre-registration posts under Rupert Vaughan Hudson and Frank Scadding [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], he transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital as a house officer in the rheumatology department under Philippe Bauwens [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.32]. He returned to the Middlesex Hospital in 1957 as a senior house officer in rheumatology under Archibald Cabbourn Boyle [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.72].

It was in December 1957 that Ivan married Ann Scrimgeour, a physiotherapist whom he had met during their student years. In June 1958 Ivan was offered the post of registrar in the department of physical medicine under Kenneth Lloyd [Munk’s Roll, Vol. XII, web] at the Royal Infirmary, Cardiff. They moved to Wales, a great change after so many years in London, and set up home in Penarth, about four miles from the hospital. Ann was employed in the physiotherapy department while Ivan embarked on four years of clinical and inpatient work combined with intense study in preparation for higher qualifications. He obtained the diploma in physical medicine in 1959 and the MRCP in the same year, and was upgraded to senior registrar.

In their limited leisure time there was much enjoyment in exploring the south Wales coastline, together with walks in the Brecon Beacons, and Ivan also joined a local Cardiff hockey team. Family life began with the arrival of their first daughter in April 1960, followed in November 1961 by the birth of their son.

In February 1963 it was time to move again when Ivan was appointed as a consultant rheumatologist to the Tunbridge Wells and Hastings area health authorities. This was a new appointment and involved much work in setting up the rheumatology services. He covered a very large area and after 10 years it was agreed to appoint a second consultant to take over the Hastings group of hospitals, with Ivan remaining in Tunbridge Wells. In another field of work, he was also appointed consultant to the Spastics Society and, together with an orthopaedic surgeon, Arthur Townsend, they visited two schools in the Tonbridge area for young people with physical disabilities.

Family life increased with the arrival of two more daughters in 1964 and 1965, and they settled in the Kent village of Hawkhurst. There was a cottage hospital there and, when a few years later a physiotherapy department was opened, Ann was able to resume her career.

During his years in Cardiff Ivan had been involved with early research into the use of intra-articular corticosteroid therapy for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and two papers were published in The Lancet in conjunction with Sam Shuster (‘Adrenal suppression due to intra-articular corticosteroid therapy’ The Lancet 1961 278[7195] 171-2; ‘Pituitary and adrenal function during administration of small doses of corticosteroids’ The Lancet 1961 278[7204] 674-8).

Ivan continued with further research in Tunbridge Wells and went on to publish several joint papers on the trials conducted involving methylprednisolone pulse therapy. He also gave lectures on this form of treatment in Oso, Copenhagen, Paris, Innsbruck and Tokyo, together with several medical societies in the UK. He wrote a chapter on rheumatoid arthritis in the elderly for Geriatric orthopaedics (London, Academic Press, 1977).

Ivan was elected as an FRCP in 1975. He was chairman of the South East Thames Regional Health Authority rheumatology sub-committee from 1979 to 1983 and also (from 1980 to 1983) chairman of a working party that examined the medical and rehabilitation needs of disabled school leavers.

Ann and Ivan’s house in Hawkhurst had a large field attached to it and in 1975 they decided to plant a vineyard. There were already two or three in Kent and the site was deemed suitable, so family and friends were put to work to install land drains, erect posts and wires, and plant 1,200 grape vines from the Alsace region. After very busy outpatient clinics followed by domiciliary visits, it was therapeutic for Ivan to arrive home and spend evenings tending his vines. After four years, there was great excitement when the first wine was tasted, a medium dry, white wine. The quantity and quality improved with time and the only disaster occurred when the hurricane of 1987 blew all night. It was three days before the harvest and in the morning the posts, wires and vines were all on the ground. The whole beautiful crop was lost.

This was though nothing compared to the tragedy which befell the family when their second daughter, an archaeologist, died in a road accident in 1992 aged 26. Ivan decided to retire from the NHS and took up a part-time appointment as medical director of the Horder Centre for Arthritis in Crowborough, East Sussex. He remained there until 1997, and enjoyed working with the orthopaedic surgeons and advancing joint replacement surgery for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Ivan loved his medical career and was always interested in new advances in treatments.

Ivan and Ann retired to Kingsbridge in Devon at the end of 1997, living near their son (a GP) and his young family. They enjoyed sailing, playing golf, became Coastwatch volunteers for nine years, walked many of the local cliff paths and travelled whenever possible. Ivan was editor of the local parish magazine for 15 years. Their eight grandchildren were a great joy.

Ann Williams

(Volume XII, page web)

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