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Medical Graduates of 1958

Gathering of some medical graduates of 1958


Will the Real Henry Black please stand up?


The Falcon Hotel, Stratford upon Avon royally entertained a group of Birmingham Medical Graduates of the year of 1958 on Saturday, September 7th 2002. Having been unable to attend the true 40th reunion of the 1958 year, Malcolm Hoare (G.P. in Perth, Australia, and wife Freda, Medical Psychology practitioner) and Charles Oxnard (Academic Anatomist in Perth, and wife Eleanor, one time Medical Librarian at Birmingham University) on one of their monthly dinners discussed the idea of getting a few graduates together during their visit to the UK in 2002. This was then put to Geoff Harrison (ret’d G.P. in Birmingham) and his wife Doreen (one time Sister Midwife at the QEH) and they carried it forward so that, on the day, largely through word-of-mouth (or e-mail-of-computer) a total of 38 year members and spouses met for drinks, dinner, breakfast and talk, talk, talk.


The evening got off to a good start when Ann Fawcett (née Ballantine, retired Physician in Genito-Urinary Medicine in Peterborough), not being sure who one of us was, was told by him (Don Southall, ret’d Gynaecologist from Sydney with wife Catherine) that he was the Henry Black. Anne bought it until, a little later, the real Henry Black (Cardiologist in Sarasota, USA, with wife Mary) turned up. Throughout the remainder of the evening, almost everyone else managed to introduce himself to Ann as the great Henry Black.


Members present included, in addition to those mentioned above: Clive Dalby (Psychiatrist from Massachusetts), John Bewley, (ret’d G.P. from Alsager), Peter Burton (ret’d G.P. from Sutton Coldfield) together with wife Christine (née Tong – medical graduate in 1960), Gordon and Francis (née Heron) Campbell (ret’d G.P.s from B’ham), Clem Cottrill (ret’d G.P from Solihull – as full of jokes as ever – mostly still the same ones – no I take that back – he was marvellous fun), Tony Dunhill (ret’d G.P. from Oxford, the other person present who had been a member of the then University Athletic Team and wife Anne), Bernard Goodhead (General Surgeon then later Medical Practitioner from San Diego, USA, and wife Arlene), Brian Henley (ret’d G.P. from Yately in Surrey and wife Judy) Graham Hunt (ret’d G.P. from Brighton and wife Vicki), Paul Preston (ret’d G.P. from B’ham and wife Eryl), Bob and Doris (née Pereira) Sankarya (ret’d G.P.s from B’ham), Bob Smith (recently ret’d Medical Director of Glaxo Research in London and wife Doreen), June Thomas (née Lloyd, ret’d G.P. from Rhossili, and husband Dudley), Trevor Willietts (ret’d Consultant Pathologist from Liverpool, and wife Mary) and David Woodward (ret’d Surgeon from Coventry, and wife Mary).


The group had a wonderful evening – quietly raucous, incredibly friendly, and without the food riots and worse of earlier days. Particularly, the nonmedical spouses were warmly welcomed and made to feel a part of the group.


A Message for the Profession of Medicine


Some statistics are available from the meeting. Almost without exception, overseas members (and there are many of them – the 1958 year was assailed by the pandemic emigration of doctors – peak year, 1966) were still practising one way or another and still enjoying medicine. The home grown members, all of whom averred that they had been in medicine at the right time, and had thoroughly enjoyed it, were nevertheless almost all retired, usually early, and glad to be so.


A very common comment:


“I truly enjoyed my medical education in Birmingham and then my stint in practice, but in recent years I was being asked to be an accountant, a business manager, a collector of other peoples’ statistics, a writer of reports that no-one ever read, and a recipient of medical decisions from non-medical managers and bureaucrats. Since about 1990 this has killed my enjoyment of medicine – the subject in which I was trained and for which my patients needed me. I enjoyed my time in practice – but I am glad to have retired early. As for accepting £10,000 to re-enter practice – forget it.”


Home grown members see anger and frustration amongst both doctors and patients. Both are upset because they see that the two biggest pressures in medicine are medical indemnity and balancing the medical budget – patient care is a poor third.


Of course, not every UK physician said that – but a lot of them did. The profession, and more, the people (not nowadays doctors) who currently run the profession, need to take note of this, to recognise the damage that has been done, and to decide (with Government) whether or not it is time to repair that damage before the next ten years-worth of medical reunions say the same thing in spades.


Not every overseas physician was still working – but most were – and were still enjoying their work despite the fact that some of the problems that have beset UK medicine, have also, in different ways, affected overseas medicine.


It would be easy to dismiss such comments as the grumblings of old folks – after all we all remember our grandfathers complaining that a farthing no longer bought anything. But a lot of people averred that the current set of grumbles was not the usual generation thing, not a pining for a lost (and never-ever-existent) nirvana or shangrila, but a realistic comment about real damage to the reality of medicine.


Perhaps some of this is expressed in a new book entitled: “P.C., M.D.” by Sally Satel, Basic Books, 2002. It is subtitled “How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine”!


It may also be of interest that this gathering was followed by another. An official 45th reunion of medical graduates of 1957, on October 7th, was also held in the Falcon Hotel. Though a 1958 medical graduate, I started with the 1957 medical year, and was also invited. I am sure someone will make an official report of that occasion. However, it was not without interest to me that the comments above, about differences between overseas and UK graduates, were equally evident there.


Charles Oxnard

1958 - 45th Year Reunion - A Moveable Feast


At a mini-reunion held in Stratford on Avon in October 2002, the question was posed by one of the year attending from abroad: “Why do we always have to travel to a reunion held in the Autumn in cold and rainy U.K. when we are unwilling to combine it with a European holiday. Why don’t you come to us for a change?”


Henry Black, still working as a Cardiologist in Sarasota on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and his wife Margaret, immediately offered to host our 45 year reunion and a straw poll held after breakfast before we went our different ways confirmed that more than 50% of those attending would be prepared to go to Sarasota in October 2003.


Henry asked me to arrange the U.K. end and so with considerable help from the Alumni Office at the University, invitations were sent out to all the surviving 1958 Medical Graduates. But  when push came to shove, only 4 of the year were able or willing to travel.


Bernard Goodhead from San Diego, Charles and Eleanor Oxnard (ex medical librarian) from Perth, Western Australia and Bob Smith and Geoff Harrison with their wives (Doreen and Doreen) all from England. We did also have regrets from 19 of the year who couldn’t make it because of factors like new grandchildren on the way, keeping a hotel in St Helier, life in Provence being too hard!!! etc. Unfortunately there were also a number too ill to attend. These 19 were: Leo Bernstein, John Bewley, Gordon Campbell and his wife Frances (née Heron), Patrick Davies, Ted Genever, Selwyn Glick, Mike Golby and his wife Wendy (née McNeilly), Jean Harris Kendrik (née Harris), Michael Lewis, Philippa Pirionet (née Mourant), Colin Roberts, Bob Sankarayya and his wife Doris (née Pereira), John Smout and his wife Shirley (née Machin), Don Southall and Peter Witherow.


However, what we lacked in numbers, we more than made up for in activity spread over four days and nights. Two days of golf were enjoyed at 90°F and 90% humidity at The Oaks Club in Osprey. The other less active (read nongolfing) members enjoyed a cruise along the Intercoastal Waterway and visited the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the Ringling Circus Museum, a vintage car rally in Venice and swam off the beach at Casey Key incredibly close to very large sea-birds. We all enjoyed four evenings together with dinners at widely differing venues i.e. at a Beach Restaurant, at Henry and Margaret’s beautiful home, a formal Reunion Dinner in the imposing library of The Oaks Club, and to round off a wonderful reunion, at the marina where Henry keeps his boat.


We then made our farewells before leaving Sarasota to enjoy holidays in the Florida Keys, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and the UK, all agreeing that a four day reunion, rather than a dinner, bed and breakfast affair, is the way to party!


Geoff Harrison


We can also record however, that this has been a peripatetic year for reunions. Thus dinner was enjoyed with Ann Fawcett (Ballantyne), Bob and Doreen Smith and Eleanor and Charles Oxnard in June at the Royal Society of Medicine, later at the Royal Academy of Art with Bob and Doris (Pereira) Sankharayya and Eleanor and Charles Oxnard, and later still at National Gallery with Ann Fawcett and Geoff and Doreen Harrison and Eleanor and Charles Oxnard. The Oxnards, living in the most isolated city in the world (Perth, Western Australia – if you walk too far you fall off the edge) met up in Birmingham at a Thai Restaurant in Brindley place with Bob and Doris Sankarayya, Gordon and Francis Campbell, and Geoff and Doreen Harrison. Finally, in November during a visit of Bernard and Arlene Goodhead to Perth, drinks were enjoyed with Malcolm and Freda Hoare and Dick (not the 1958 year but close enough to count – 1955) and Barbara Reynolds in the Oxnards’ apartment overlooking down-town Perth, Kings Park and the Swan River. A dinner followed at Fraser’s restaurant in Kings Park.


Perhaps, as we all become older, reunions are more frequent as we attempt to get them all in before we go! We also subscribe to the idea of e-mail reunions. They could be used by Aesculapius because we don’t seem to write letters easily but dash off badly spelt ungrammatical but wonderfully vivid e-mails at the drop of a hat.


Charles Oxnard


Year of 1958 – 50th reunion


This highly successful reunion was held in Birmingham on September 19th and 20th 2008. As usual the number attending was very satisfactory; 33 alumni with wives and partners making a total party of 52. Eight had come from abroad – mostly from Australia, Canada and the U.S.A.


Most stayed at Hornton Grange, which proved to be a convenient and good hotel.


On the first evening we enjoyed an informal meal at the hotel, when we all got to recognising each other and reminisce.


A full day of great interest followed. First a visit to the medical school, which had changed beyond recognition. John Ashton introduced the two speakers.


Prof Robert Arnott (sub-dean) outlined the changes that were happening in the field of medical education. The merging of medical sciences into one academic unit seemed to be top of the agenda at the moment. He also told us that student intake this year would be 435; in 1958 it was 92. Also that 70% will be female.


Mrs Morag Jackson (New hospitals project director) told us about progress being made on the construction of the new university hospitals. We were given a ‘virtual’ tour of what it will look like when it is finished. A lively and amusing question and answer session followed, including a discussion concerning the dress code of modern consultant surgeons – short sleeves and no ties. Something to do with infection control, we learned. Many of us mourned the passing of the Lancelot Spratt image!


In the afternoon some played golf while others visited the Barber or Winterbourne gardens.


The main event in the evening was the reunion dinner, held at Edgbaston Golf Club – an excellent venue. Charles Oxnard made an amusing speech and others added comments. Terry Dennis told us that reports that he had been killed by a polar bear in Alaska were greatly exaggerated!            


Frances Campbell (Heron) read a list of 13 alumni who had passed away, followed by an appropriate poem. They were Michael Badminton, Tony Burdon, John Fawcett, Ron Geddes, Ian Goldman, Geoffrey Horton, Danuta Kaczmarska, Michael Lewis, Raymond Norris, Trevor Pearman, Susan Richards, Albert West and Geoffrey Wolloff.


Reunions are all about shared memories: Paul Preston wrote the following...


“Everyone had enjoyed an exceptionally good reunion, as befits a 50th, and were grateful to Geoff and Doreen Harrison for all their hard work and arranging such a varied programme.”


Gordon Campbell

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