Lives of the fellows

Malcolm Leon Chiswick

b.26 July 1940 d.8 February 2019
MB BS Newcastle(1965) DCH(1967) MRCP(1969) MD(1974) FRCP(1980) FRCPCH(1997) Hon FRCOG(2010)

On a cold December morning, the fortnightly meeting of the co-editors of Archives of Disease in Childhood at BMA House in central London was about to begin. There was a lightning strike on the Manchester to London railway and we wondered whether Malcolm would be able to attend. The door opened and he was there: he had caught a very early plane. Dependability, always keeping to deadlines, never getting annoyed or angry, with an astute approach to problems – these were the characteristics of Malcolm.

Malcolm Chiswick, the son of Samuel and Polly Chiswick, studied medicine at Newcastle, qualified in 1965 and, after registrar posts in Southampton and London, became a research fellow in the department of child health at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester. He became a consultant paediatrician there in 1975 and professor of child health and paediatrics in 1992.

His first research was on pulmonary surfactant, vitamin E and periventricular haemorrhage, and later the long-term growth and development of premature babies. His research interests included circadian rhythms, measurement of foot length in the newborn and, with his obstetric colleagues, prenatal prediction.

His extensive knowledge of the literature, sound clinical judgement and an ability to put important ideas into context made him ideal as a leader writer for several journals. He was forthright in tackling difficult subjects such as end of life decisions and the provision of adequate resources. As an editor, he was meticulously fair to all authors and made constructive suggestions to enable borderline articles to be published. He was also aware of the needs of readers and asked authors of very long articles to reduce the lengths.

In 1985, with an increasing specialisation in paediatrics and the submission of a greater number of high-quality papers, especially in neonatology, Malcolm was appointed the first associate editor of Archives of Disease in Childhood. There had been considerable opposition to the development of specialties within paediatrics and opposition to the appointment of associate editors. It was argued that associate editors would favour their own specialties to the detriment of others. Malcolm showed that this prediction was incorrect. Additional associate editors were appointed and this new editorial structure was adopted widely within paediatric and general medical journals throughout the world. In 2017, all 23 of the members of the editorial board were appointed as associate editors.

In 1987, Malcolm was appointed one of the co-editors of Archives of Disease in Childhood, which had been the first specialist journal in the BMJ group and had become the foremost paediatric journal in Europe. In 1988, he launched the new fetal and neonatal edition, which rapidly developed a high reputation. This edition was given free to all fellows and members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and all subscribers, so that general paediatricians, who carried out a large proportion of the care of the newborn at that time, could benefit from advances. He recruited an international editorial board, which increased the submission of papers and the number of subscribers from abroad. He retired from Archives of Disease in Childhood in 2000 after 13 years as editor.

Malcolm had a reputation for working in an innovative and constructive way in committees. He was a founder member in 1976 and later chairman of the British Association for Perinatal Medicine (BAPM). The founding members, 20 consultant paediatricians from the UK and Ireland, who spent at least two thirds of their time working with the newborn, had the aim of improving standards in the provision of newborn care. They would become the first full-time neonatologists in the UK. The most important achievement was to obtain formal recognition of the new subspecialty from the Royal College of Physicians and the British Paediatric Association (predecessor of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health). In 1997, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health assumed responsibility for organising training in neonatal medicine and BAPM was invited to nominate specialty training advisers and members of the new college specialist advisory committee in neonatal medicine.

Malcolm was a member and later chairman of the joint committee of the British Paediatric Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). He was secretary of the Royal College of Physicians' working party on neonatal medical services, which produced an influential report. He served on the scientific advisory medicolegal committee of the RCOG.

During a critical period in the development of St Mary's Hospital between 1992 and 1996 he was clinical head of the division of St Mary's Hospital. He went on to become the medical director of Central Manchester University Hospitals from 2002 to 2006, when he retired. In 2008 Malcolm was elected as a public governor on the council of governors of the former Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and continued until 2015. He was a member of the committee which had the daunting task of devising and carrying out a pilot trial of joining together the budgets of the NHS and social services for Manchester.

He was a superb after dinner speaker. After a speech to the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, resources were raised to refurbish and equip the neonatal intensive care unit at St Mary's Hospital. This occurred at a time when raising private funds for the NHS was frowned upon. At one annual meeting of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health there was a gala dinner with a speech to be given by an eminent person. He did not arrive and Malcolm stepped in at the last minute. He recounted conversations with fellow train passengers on his journeys between Manchester and London, which were so hilarious that we thought that he must have spent some of his study leave at a course for stand-up comics.

Malcolm was the ideal colleague and friend and we never had a disagreement, although our opinions sometimes differed. It was never possible to argue with a friend with such a disarming smile.

He was devoted to his family and was survived by his widow, Claire (née Dodds), son, Linton, daughter, Lindsey, and two grandchildren.

Bernard Valman

[British Association of Perinatal Medicine Obituary – Professor Malcolm Chiswick – accessed 6 June 2019]

(Volume XII, page web)

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