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Rob Stockley (M 1977)


Nostalgia derives from the Greek nostos (returning home) and algos (pain). It was initially described as a medical condition, i.e., a form of melancholy. Indeed, Swiss nostalgia was a condition of Swiss mercenaries linked to the singing of the Kuhreihen (a melody played on the horn by Swiss alpine herdsmen) (F. Frauchiger (1941) The Swiss Kruweihen. The Journal of American Folklore 54; 121-131). This practice led to a longing for home resulting in desertion, illness and death. Latterly its usage has tended to relate to past eras, their personality and events, the “good old days” and a vision seen through rose tinted spectacles. Today it is more often than not an intermittent disease of the elderly triggered by article such as the UBH Staff picture. The photograph in the article appears to have been taken at the back of the “old” QEH where the pond currently survives, and contains many remembered names and mentors.


As a student Sir Melville Arnott used to frighten me to death. We rarely if ever wanted to be on the Professorial Medical Unit although as a first year clinical medical student undertook my introductory course for 3 months on the Medical Professorial Unit under the mentorship of Dr Keith Prowse and my views rapidly changed. After retirement I recall Sir Melville still attending the grand round where he often appeared to be asleep, always to rouse and ask pertinent questions at the end of any presentation (a practice I fail to match, well at least the pertinent question). He worked well into his seventies doing locums as an elderly care physician retaining his sharp clinical acumen, often referring me most interesting and complex cases.


 My first post registration house job was as a house officer on East 1B covering East 1A and working predominantly for Professor George Whitfield. He was the most wonderful role model, a true gentleman and a complete physician. He always examined all patients on his daily ward rounds,usually knew all the test results and their value the following day and even undertook ward rounds most Saturdays (oh to have a weekend off). He knew the meaning of hygiene and washed his hands with soap and water in between patients which left as all with an impaired practice. He was always loyal to his team and I was pleased that he attended the award of my higher degrees and wedding. He took me to lunch at one of his London clubs before the FRCP dinner and despite his place on the top table he chose to sit with me during the meal, enlightening me with his encyclopaedic knowledge of college paintings, past presidents, whether they were notorious or not.


Brian Taylor was his consultant colleague of East 1B and taught me as a junior student. He was a chest physician who instilled in me the need to state the obvious abnormalities “Stockley you don’t say you have more hair than me, you say I am the bald headed coot” not that I ever did so. Percussion was an art form, Brian always said that “you feel it” you don’t hear it. Of course as a student we didn’t really believe him, but it is true (it takes years of practice and perhaps hearing atuned to quiet low pitched noises!). Unfortunately, he retired just before I started the house job on East 1B so I never had further opportunity to benefit from his teaching and clinical expertise.

East 1A was staffed by Owen Williams a Welsh physician who paid particular attention not only to his own housemen but to those working on East 1B who covered East 1A on alternate nights. He took us both to the annual meeting of the West Midlands Physicians Association which at that time was a joint meeting with the North West Association of Physicians in Manchester. He drove us in his Rolls Royce and enlightened us about the benefits of being a Consultant in UBH. An enjoyable and educational day out where we both felt very special. East 1A also had the benefit of Dr Michael Small a meticulously dressed and careful neurologist. He was also an exceptional teacher. On my first teaching round as a junior student it transpired that no-one had clerked his patients: at that point he turned on his heels, walked off the ward and said he wouldn’t do this again. We rapidly made a mends and on the second  teaching round I was subject to a continual criticism of my lack of knowledge and examination technique, an experience I vowed never to have again and fortunately I didn’t.


In 1979 after many enjoyable and clinically challenging years on the Medical Professional Unit (where else does acute intermittent Porphyria turn up?) working for Bill Hoffenburg, John Bishop and David Heath I replaced David Humphries as a Consultant. He was a Respiratory Physician who combined his clinical medicine with an enthusiasm for the string quartet. I recall that he had a set of lung function equipment locked in a room next to ward 13 and on a Friday afternoon he used to do the measurements on a few of his patients personally. How things have changed – we currently have Senior Clinic Scientists, most of the Respiratory Physiology technicians doing lung function tests have degrees, they have national qualifications and currently a throughput of greater than 16,500 procedures a year, probably additive to “feeling” the chest percussion! But those were the days!


Many of the others in the pictures are names remembered and celebrated by prizes, bursaries and have contributed to UBH and Birmingham and its deserved reputation.

Brian Pentecost who was the Cardiologist at the General Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital reminded me just after I started as a Consultant that in his sixties Trevor Cook was taking on new challenges and roles. Brian had asked him why at his age he was doing this and Trevor wisely replied that as a consultant you always need new challenges: medicine is one of those careers where those new challenges and opportunities offer themselves throughout and even after your time as a consultant.


Carey Smallwood I never knew, however we still live in the house that he had built on the Bourneville Village trust in the 1930s. His careful attention to detail outside medicine has provided us with an enduring home full of memories as I hope it did for him. I am sure many readers will also have fond memories of many of the others in the picture. In the meantime I think I will get back to my bread and hot milk and take off my rose tinted spectacles

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