Lives of the fellows

Christopher James Lucas

b.9 June 1926 d.1 February 2017
MB BS Lond(1949) MRCP(1953) DPM(1957) MRCPsych(1971) FRCP(1978) FRCPysch(1978)

Christopher James Lucas (‘Chris’) was director and psychiatric adviser to the health centre at University College, London, and a consultant psychotherapist in London and Colchester. He was born in north London, the youngest of five children of Harold William Lucas, a schoolmaster who taught history and games at University College School, and Kathrine Lucas (née Engelhardt), who had come over from Germany to work as a governess and had met Harold on a train. They married in 1910. Unfortunately, when Chris was seven, his father died. This affected him so deeply that he needed to repeat a year at school. It also left the family without a breadwinner and so Kathrine took in lodgers at the family home in Finchley to make ends meet.

Fortunately, Chris and his older brother David were given free places at University College School. His school reports show him developing academically and in confidence during his time there. In his final report, in the summer of 1944, the Headmaster, C S Walter, wrote: ‘I think he has a great future before him because of his wide and intelligent perception and careful and patient mind.’ He demonstrated these characteristics lifelong. He was unassuming, had a calm, placid nature and a dry sense of humour.

During the war, Chris was evacuated to Totteridge. There he learnt to play the piano, a hobby that sustained him into his eighties. As a young man, he played in a band called ‘The Jive Five’. He wrote at least two songs, but the manuscripts only came to light shortly before his death. ‘Waltz of a thousand dreams’, a romantic composition, was resurrected and played at his funeral.

Chris began his medical studies at University College London in 1944. His pre-clinical years took place in Leatherhead because of the war. He qualified in 1949 and did house jobs in the professorial unit at University College Hospital under Max Rosenheim [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.394], the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Taplow and at St Stephen’s Hospital in Fulham. From 1950 to 1952, he carried out his National Service, working as general duty medical officer to the Coldstream Guards, the Guards’ Training Depot and to the King’s Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery. Whilst he might have preferred a more exotic posting, he had plenty of time to study for his membership of the Royal College of Physicians and was admitted in 1953, becoming a fellow in 1978.

After gaining his membership, Chris worked as a medical registrar at University College Hospital and then in psychiatry at St George’s Hospital. In 1957, he went to work for the Medical Research Council Clinical Psychiatry Research Unit and was senior registrar at Graylingwell Hospital in Chichester, Sussex. There he undertook a survey of schizophrenic delusions and their relationship to social and family factors, and did work on the placebo response as well as two clinical trials. He also gained the diploma in psychological medicine.

In 1959, Chris was appointed director and psychiatric adviser to the health centre, University College, London, a post he held for 20 years. He had overall responsibility for providing a comprehensive college health service, though particular attention was paid to the psychotherapeutic management of student health problems. He published several papers on student mental health, mainly on its relationship with student wastage and work difficulties. Chris also played a major role in raising money from the Wolfson Foundation for a purpose-built health centre and general practice, which was opened in 1973. From 1978 to 1979, he was president of the British Student Health Association. He was also secretary of the Royal College of Physicians’ committee on health services in higher education under the chairmanship of Sir Douglas Black [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.62], the report being published in 1979.

Whilst at University College London, Chris began training at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and qualified as an associate member in 1966. One of his supervisors was Michael Balint. He subsequently also trained in group psychotherapy. Chris became a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1971 and a fellow in 1978. From 1979 to 1986, Chris was a consultant psychotherapist at the Portman Clinic, London and worked in the fields of forensic psychiatry and psychosexual disorders. On retirement from this post he moved to Colchester, where he helped establish the Stockwell Centre as a provider of professional therapy and where he continued to see patients and run counselling courses until he was 70.

Chris married Sheila, a nurse, in 1950, having met her on a walking holiday in the Lake District. Chris enjoyed semi-retirement in Colchester with Sheila until her death in 1996. He subsequently met Jean and enjoyed her companionship until she died in 2012. The latter years of his life were marred by severe macular degeneration. Chris and Sheila had three children. He was a patient and loving father who made up stories for his children and performed magic tricks for them. His elder daughter, Rosalind (‘Lindy’), predeceased him in 2014. He was survived by his son, Viv, also a doctor, his daughter, Karey, and seven grandchildren. Chris spent the last three and a half years of his life in Wymondley Care Home in Hertfordshire, where he was held in great affection by the staff and died peacefully following a short illness aged 90.

Viv Lucas

[BMJ 2017 357 1756 – accessed 25 February 2018]

(Volume XII, page web)

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