Lives of the fellows

Joseph Anthony Finnegan

b.30 March 1944 d.5 December 2017
MB ChB Leeds(1967) MRCP(1978) FRCP(1992)

Tony Finnegan was a consultant neurophysiologist at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham. He was born in Crosby, Liverpool, the son of Kevin Finnegan, an electrical engineer, and Anne Finnegan, a florist. At St Mary’s College, a local boys’ grammar school, he distinguished himself both in sports and academically and obtained a place at Leeds University to study medicine.

His qualification in 1967 was followed by house jobs at St James’s University Hospital, Leeds and at Chapel Allerton, and eventually he started work as a GP in Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire. It was here that Tony first became interested in neurology while working as a part-time clinical assistant in Preston. He decided to become a neurophysiologist and went back to St James’s to complete his training, also spending some time at the National Hospital, Queen Square, London.

After completing his MRCP in 1978, he was appointed as a consultant neurophysiologist to South Birmingham Health Authority. The department was then based at the John Connolly Hospital and provided only EEGs. Tony immediately set about transforming the service, providing both EMG and evoked potentials. In 1984, the department moved to the site of the district general hospital at Selly Oak, where Tony built close working relationships with all the clinicians there as well as at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital a few miles away. He also worked closely with the spinal surgeons in developing evoked potential monitoring during scoliosis surgery.

Tony was a national examiner for the Clinical Neurophysiology Education Board and trained neurophysiology technicians on BTEC and HNC courses. He was chairman of the medical division of the hospital and helped steer the merger with the regional centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He strongly supported the ethos of Selly Oak Hospital and was the social secretary of the medical staff committee, where he arranged the biannual, formal black tie dinners to commemorate the retiring consultant staff. His technical staff loved him because he cared about each of them individually and supported them at every opportunity.

Tony was an excellent clinician and set up an epilepsy clinic at Selly Oak. He was often the first and only neurology opinion at a time when neurologists were very thinly stretched over the West Midlands. He wrote reports that generalists found immensely helpful because they were so clear and concise. His finding of normal alpha rhythms in a patient thought to be brain stem dead and helping to recognise that a patient with progressive bulbar dysfunction actually had his upper dentures stuck in the pharynx were two of his diagnostic coups!

Tony met his wife to be, Liz (Elizabeth Anne), while she was a ward sister at St James’s and he was still a medical student. They had a long and happy marriage of which he was justly proud. He was survived by Liz, their three children, Neil, Helen and Kate, his sister Marie and seven grandchildren. Tony had to retire early following a heart attack in 1999, but was able to do some part-time work as a locum consultant at City Hospital, Birmingham. Tony spent much of his leisure time playing golf, having sensibly had his home built within striking distance of Blackwell Golf Club. Tony remained interested in several other sports and he and Liz followed the English cricket team when they played abroad in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies.

John Winer

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List