Reporter 428, 30 November 1998


Resolution adopted by the Senate (21 October 1998) on the retirement of

Professor Sir Roy Meadow

Sir Roy graduated from Oxford in 1960. After National Service, he spent his early medical years at Guys Hospital, before going to Banbury as a general practitioner for two years. Here he recognised the importance of the inter-relationship between the child and family, but the thrill of child health brought him back to Guys as a registrar in paediatrics. Here he studied the effect on families of having a child in hospital. For this work, ‘The Captive Mother’, he was awarded the prestigious Donald Paterson prize of the British Paediatric Association in 1968. This was the time when paediatric subspecialities were developing and both he and Professor Richard White worked closely with their adult colleague, Professor Stuart Cameron, to progress paediatric nephrology. Roy then followed Professor White to Birmingham where he studied the natural history and epidemiology of urinary tract infections before he was enticed to Leeds by Professor Smithells in 1970 as senior lecturer. This was the start of a happy and fruitful time at Leeds, and it was natural when a second chair in paediatrics was inaugurated at St James’s University Hospital in 1980 that Roy should be invited to accept it.

In Leeds he initiated the paediatric nephrology service and continued his interest in many aspects of the subject from eneuresis to renal failure. With great clinical skill and perseverance he discovered a clinical syndrome where parents were fabricating their child’s illness resulting in, at the very least, many unnecessary hospital admissions and, at worse, death. This he called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy after the infamous story-teller Baron von Munchausen, but many professionals now prefer to call it Meadow’s syndrome. His opinion about these difficult problems is sought by child care agencies and legal professions throughout the world. His easy writing style and ability to focus on essentials made him a popular author of text books. Under his editorship the major European journal Archives of Disease in Childhood climbed rapidly up the citation index.

His advocacy for children has two other facets. Firstly, he is a dedicated teacher of child health to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Many of his lecturers will remember delivering their first seminar in the department with their professor sitting critically in the back row. His comments about their teaching skills were always constructive and never derogatory. Secondly, he became a major figure in national and international child health. It was natural that he should be elected by his peers to be President of the Paediatric Association in 1994. But it soon became clear that paediatricians wanted and needed their own College. Armed with a mandate from BPA members he pursued this aim with his characteristic tact and determination. Only his wife Marianne will truly understand the pressures he was under during this stressful time. But he succeeded, and the Privy Council was pleased to grant a Royal Charter to The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 1996. Roy became its first President and, subsequently, received a Knighthood for his services to child health.

Under his leadership the University department of Child Health in Leeds has flourished. He leaves with the knowledge that children both in Yorkshire and nationally have a better service. We wish him a long and happy retirement. He is a man with great energy which will always remain dedicated to the service of children; he will soon find another cause.

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