Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 09-July-2004, Vol 117 No 1197
Robert Charles Stewart Dick
Charles Dick was born in 1913 at Sevenoaks, Kent, England; the elder son of Dr Robert James Dick and his wife Hilda. He was educated at Sherborne School and Cambridge University—graduating with a BA in 1937, and MB, BChir in 1937.
His clinical training was at Guy’s Hospital where he held resident appointments and was strongly influenced by a leading English physician, Sir Arthur Hurst. In 1942, they co-authored a paper on diaphragmatic hernia, published in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine.
Charles’s pre-war years were notable for his success on the rugby field. He won a Cambridge Blue and was capped 13 times for Scotland; and according to The Times was ‘one of the finest centres in his day’. He played for Scotland against the All Blacks in 1936—and scored a try. In his later years, he was not enthusiastic about the style of modern professional rugby.
In 1939, he served in France with the Royal Artillery before being posted to the Military Hospital for Head Injuries in Oxford. In 1942, he joined a mobile neurosurgery unit based in India, reaching the rank of major. Ten years later, in New Zealand, he became Colonel of command of the 3rd General Hospital of the Royal New Zealand Army Corps. In 1958, he was appointed Honorary Physician to the Queen (QHP), a post he held for 10 years.
After the war years, Dick was not in good health and was disillusioned with British medicine. He chose to emigrate to New Zealand (where his wife’s family was based), and took over the practice of Dr CT Hand Newton in Christchurch. He became Assistant Physician at Christchurch Hospital in 1947, and played an important part in the treatment of poliomyelitis during a serious epidemic in 1956. His committee activities included Chairman of the Medical Staff Association, Chairman of the Blood Transfusion Service, and long-serving Executive Member of the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation.
In 1954, with Fred Gunz and Ian Gebbie, he published a paper on the treatment of gastro-duodenal haemorrhage in the British Medical Journal. He was elected FRACP in 1958 and FRCP in 1974.
In 1959, Charles Dick was appointed the first medical superintendent of The Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH). It was a surprising decision as he had little hospital administrative experience—but he adapted well, prospered, and gained a worthy international reputation during his 19 year tenure at PMH (as it was soon called). Professional staff enjoyed working there, standards of care were high, and research and teaching flourished. Charles continued to work in the wards, setting the highest clinical and ethical standards, and being greatly respected by his patients.
Charles and Ann owned a beautiful holiday home on the shores of Lake Tekapo, close to the mountains that meant so much to him. There, he enjoyed the love of his devoted wife and family, and pursued his many interests—walking, bird watching, restoring clocks, gardening, reading, and even writing doggerel verse. At the age of 90 years, and still showing his handsome features, he attended a reunion of PMH staff in Christchurch.
Charles Dick died on May 10, 2004 and was buried in Burke’s Pass Cemetery (between Fairlie and Lake Tekapo). Ann (nee Fell) had died in 2000—and he is survived by Ian (France), Peter (Victoria, Australia), Jenny (Whangarei), and Sue (Gisborne).
We are grateful to Sir David Hay for this obituary.
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