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Starting out in the sixties

After graduating from Edinburgh Medical School in the summer of 1963 the class dispersed to pursue careers all over the world. We caught up with a few of them to hear what they did next.

The MBChB Class of 1963 in between lectures
Class of 1963 students in the east lecture theatre at the old Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.

The winter of 1963 was one of the UK's coldest on record. It was so cold that even the sea froze. Amidst the big freeze as it was dubbed, the Beatles kicked off their UK tour in an equally chilly Elgin, and the BBC broadcast the very first episode of Doctor Who.

In Edinburgh, the MBChB class of 1963 worked hard through the frosty months, graduated at McEwan Hall on a somewhat warmer day in June and set off to commence their house jobs at hospitals throughout the country. 

Dr Peter McCormick

Following graduation Peter quickly decided to specialise in paediatrics. He gained the Diploma in Child Health in London and reached the grade of registrar at the Teaching Hospital of Leeds. The family then moved to Kettering in the East Midlands where Peter worked in general practice until retirement in 1995.

After trekking across Norwegian Lapland fundraising for ‘Save the Children’ Peter focussed on what he had always wanted to do, care for really sick children, which, in turn, took him to Africa.

Dr Peter McCormick with a child patient at a hospital in Cameroon
Dr McCormick with Seraphine, a patient at one of his charity's hospitals in Cameroon.

In 2005 Peter established the Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust for the free treatment of children with cancer in Cameroon. The charity established basic neonatal resuscitation and breastmilk banks, designed and provided low-tech incubators, radiant heaters and phototherapy units in three hospitals in Cameroon, and one in the Gambia.

To date, Peter’s charity has saved more than 1,000 children from Burkitt’s lymphoma and other childhood cancers. The charity currently treats four childhood cancers and, outside of South Africa, their breastmilk banks comprise the only ones in the whole continent.

The MBChB Class of 1963 at a recent reunion
Dr Kerr and Dr Guy (front right) at the most recent 1963 reunion event.

Drs Alison and Tom Kerr

Alison and Tom Kerr married after their first three house jobs in Edinburgh and the north of England were completed. After various locum jobs around the UK, Tom chose to specialise in orthopedics. He became senior registrar in Cambridge before returning to Scotland and a consultant post in Stirling and Falkirk.

Alison specialised in paediatrics but also worked in General Practice, neonatology, community and mental health. She went on to become a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow and was made an honorary consultant at Glasgow's Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

In her final 20 years before retirement Alison conducted research into Rett Syndrome, a profoundly disabling genetic disorder and was awarded an OBE for services to paediatrics. Her 2006 doctoral thesis on Rett Syndrome was awarded MD with distinction by the University of Edinburgh. Alison also conducted and coordinated health reviews at Lennox Castle hospital (for adult learning disabilities).

Dr John Guy

John finds it somewhat sobering that virtually all of the hospitals he trained and worked in following graduation no longer exist as hospitals. In Edinburgh these include the old Royal Infirmary, the City Hospital and the the Eastern General Hospital in Leith.

Away from Scotland, John worked at the Worcester Royal Infirmary for 25 years as a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon during which he recalls putting in a thousand Stanmore hip replacements. He also carried out research into the bone-cement junction with Sir John Charnley CBE , a pioneering figure in hip replacement surgery.

Before returning to Scotland, John was Chairman of World Orthopaedic Concern – UK, a charity dedicated to improving the standard of orthopaedic, trauma and reconstructive surgery in developing countries.

Group of students from the MBChB Class of 1963
Standing on the roof of the medical wing at the old Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. From right to left, Dr R Haynes, Dr J. Guy, Dr A Urquhart, Dr J Liddle, Dr J Calvert and Dr P McCormick.

Drs Annette and Iain Clement

After completing their house jobs, Annette and Iain set off for Africa where they spent two years working in Mbale, the second largest town in Uganda. Their arrival in Uganda was only a short time after the country gained its independence from Britain in October 1962.

Kapchorwa Hospital, high on Mount Elgon in the east of the country, was the first hospital in Uganda to be completed and, whilst working there, Iain and Annette were fully accepted by the local Sebei tribe. After deciding to return to the UK, Iain and Annette took in as much of the continent as possible, driving the length of Africa before boarding a ship for home.

After only 8 months back in the UK,  the intrepid couple were back at sea, this time bound for Australia where they worked as multi-skilled general practitioners in Parkes, New South Wales for almost 25 years. In 1990, they headed for the coast and set up a locum practice where they worked until retirement at 65.

Annette is a cancer survivor and, with Iain’s help, ran a support and rehabilitation clinic for patients, families and carers for 10 years. She is now a patient advocate who uses her professional and personal experiences within the community and on several committees.

Related Links

Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust

World Orthopaedic Concern – UK

Edinburgh Medical School

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