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Dr Hugh Conway

Physician and teacher

Physician and teacher

Born: March 2, 1917; Died: April 7, 2014

DR Hugh Conway, who has died aged 97, was a former consultant physician to the Royal Alexandra Infirmary, Paisley and former president of the Scottish Society of Physicians. He also acted as a medical adviser to the Ministry of Defence and as a consultant to the Princess Louise Hospital for ex-service men in Erskine.

Dr Conway was asked to take academic medicine to the Royal Alexandra by the Dean of the medical faculty of the University of Glasgow in 1954 and this he did with notable success. This busy district hospital was an ideal centre for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching with a wide catchment area covering Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire.

Initially, Dr Conway's senior colleague was Dr Gibson Graham but when he retired in 1963 Dr Conway was appointed Physician-in Charge and was joined by Dr Stuart McAlpine who had an interest in cardiology. The unit expanded with the appointment in 1965 of Dr John Dall whose interest was the new speciality of geriatric medicine and he was soon followed by Dr James Williamson (diabetes) and Dr Tom McBride (respiratory medicine). A purpose-built coronary care unit was added in 1971.

Dr Conway was born in Beith, Ayrshire, and educated at Spiers school where he developed a life-long interest in rugby football. He was dux of the school in 1934 and graduated from Glasgow University in 1940 with a science degree and honours in medicine. It was a distinguished year with six honours graduates instead of the more usual one or two.

Following a residency in the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1941-1946 and was mentioned in despatches for bravery on Juno beach on D-Day. In June 1945 while serving in a hospital in Belgium he was selected to undergo specialist training in what was termed in a Lancet editorial the "University of Duffel" under LtCol, later Professor, Melville Arnott.

After three months intensive training he was promoted to medical specialist with the rank of major. On demobilisation he returned to the Western Infirmary under Professor (later Sir John) McNee. He developed an interest in haematology and had a spell in Rochester, New York under the Nobel prize winner George Whipple. He became a Fellow of all three Royal Colleges of Medicine and a Member of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and was president of the SSP in 1974. He served on many committees of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and was for many years an examiner for Membership of the college. He was also an Honorary Clinical Lecturer, University of Glasgow.

Until 1974, medical services in the West of Scotland, from Oban in the North to Dumfries in the South were administered by the Greater Glasgow Health Board.

This was considered to embrace too large an area and a new Health Board entitled Argyll and Clyde was set up to administer services from Oban to Paisley taking in Greenock and the Vale of Leven.

Although not in agreement with this concept and preferring a link between Paisley and the Southern General Hospital and the Vale of Leven with the Western Infirmary, Dr Conway agreed to be a member of the committee which set up this new arrangement and he was a board member for eight years until his retirement in 1982.

In retirement, he was a part-time adviser to the MOD and a member of medical appeal tribunals.

He had also developed a friendship with Robert Hutcheson who had been secretary to the court and registrar of the University of Glasgow and together they wrote several papers on university life in the 18th and 19th centuries. He attended a weekly discussion group in the Glasgow College until well into his eighties and this led to a further publication in the Journal of Medical Biography. He was an elder of Glasgow cathedral. Later, when travelling became more difficult, he attended Paisley Abbey.

Dr Conway had a gift for teaching and he would have an eager following of undergraduate students on a Saturday morning. Aided by an excellent memory, he could recall case histories which illustrated important clinical points. These he would describe in dramatic fashion with a hint of exaggeration never to be forgotten by the listeners for the rest of their lives.

He is survived by his son Donald and daughter Morag, by grand children and great grand children. His wife Lilian, who was also a doctor, died in 1998. Two daughters, Catriona and Ailsa also predeceased him.

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