Nottingham Hospitals Archives 2011
NOTTINGHAM’S EMINENT SURGEONS AND PHYSICIANS
PATRICK HENRY O'DONOVAN
1900 - 1977
President of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society
1956 - 1957
Patrick Henry O’Donovan:- 16, The Ropewalk, Nottingham. M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. 1923, M.B., B.S., London 1924; M.D. 1928; M.R.C.P. 1928; F.R.C.P. 1944; Honorary Physician, General Hospital, Nottingham; Visiting Physician, City Hospital, Nottingham; Consultant Physician, Ilkeston Hospital, Stamford Infirmary & Skegness Hospital. Member of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society & Derby Medical Society. Late Resident Medical Officer, National heart Hospital, London; House Physician, General Hospital, Nottingham; Clinical Assistant Surgeon, Out Patients, London Hospital
Medical Directory 1961
Patrick O'Donovan was proud to have been born in London within the sound of Bow Bells. He was the son of Patrick O'Donovan, civil servant, and his wife, formerly Beatrice Gibson, daughter of an iron foundry owner. He was brother of W.J O'Donovan who became consultant dermatologist to the London Hospital. He attended Cooper's School and the London Hospital Medical College. He came to Nottingham General Hospital as house physician in 1925. In 1928 he was given leave of absence to study for MD and MRCP. He served as RMO in the National Heart Hospital during this time and was successful in both examinations. He was appointed honorary assistant physician to the Nottingham General Hospital in 1930, honorary physician in 1937 and when the Health Service started in 1948 consultant physician. He was honorary librarian of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society from 1934 to 1937, and in 1956 the Society (composed of members from all medical disciplines in the area) conferred upon him its highest honour by electing him president for the year. He was a member of the British Heart Society for many years.
He was appointed honorary assistant physician at a time when there were very few trained specialists available outside teaching centres. The Nottingham Medical School was not to be established for another thirty years. He quickly showed his specialist interest and skill in cardiology and it was not long before he was widely recognised as giving an outstanding opinion in the Midlands. His private practice therefore made increasing demands upon his time, but he never neglected his hospital patients and for many years did a regular ward round on Sunday mornings.
In 1932 he married Mary Dobson and they had two sons. He continued to live in Nottingham after his retirement.
Patrick O'Donovan was not an easy man to get to know and he had few close medical friends, although all his colleagues had the highest regard for his professional skill and personal integrity. He was a shy man of few words, quiet but firm. If he was convinced that a cause deserved his support this was given with vigour and determination. On the other hand if he felt something was wrong he had no hesitation in opposing it, even though this could be unpopular and unfashionable.
He was never a great sportsman. In his earlier days he enjoyed a little golf and an occasional day's shooting but work claimed a great deal of his time. He enjoyed reading, and in his later years he took up bowls. One of his unique experiences was to receive a blank cheque from John Dane Player of the wealthy tobacco family; this he did not complete but had it framed, and showed it with pleasure to his visitors who thus gained an interesting insight into his character.
Throughout his life he was a committed Roman Catholic, and one of his great joys was the Papal Honour, Bene Merenti, bestowed on him a year before he died.
From the Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of London
1826 - 1925
G.H. Brown, M.A., B.Litt.
‘Centenary Year, 1956’
Delivered 31st October, 1956.
Exactly 100 years ago there died in Nottingham Dr. J. C. Williams. He was born in the city and spent practically the whole of his professional life there. He is famous for having first recognized the un-importance of the system of palpitation. During his lifetime revolutionary changes took place in the medical and social life of the country. At the beginning of the century great wealth was in the hands of the few; the working class lived under squalid conditions. Nevertheless, quietly, scientists and humane doctors were working and carrying out important researches. The names and works of such physicians as Richard Bright, Thomas Hodgkin, and Thomas Addison are well-known. Perhaps less well-known are the names of those pioneers, John Ferrier, Thomas Percival and Sir Edwin Chadwick. During this first half of the 19th century there took place in Nottingham the Luddite Riots when the stocking frame weaving machines were smashed in factories by unemployed and desperate workmen. There occurred also the Reform Riots of 1831 when Nottingham saw its Castle set on fire by the mob.
With regard to the state generally of the hospitals up and down the country, that can at once be judged by the letters written home from soldiers wounded in the Crimea War. The standard of medical services there before Florence Nightingale began her stupendous work is notorious. After she arrived the soldiers wrote home that they were more comfortable under her care at Scutari than they would have been in hospitals at home. With regard to the General Hospital, Nottingham, at that time on one occasion it is reported that the smell of pigs coming from the styes outside the windows was unbearable; the remedy was not to remove the pigs but to block up the windows.
In ‘Martin Chuzzelwhit,’ Charles Dickens describes the woman who cared for the sick in hospital when he portrayed those revolting characters Sarah Gamp and Betsy Prig, liars, drunkards, and persons completely devoid of human tenderness. And what sort of characters were the doctors? The ignorant sychophant is described in Henry Fieldings novel ‘Tom Jones,’ in Thackeray’s ‘Pendennis,’ and in the various novels of Jane Austen. The medical student and his life in hospital are vividly portrayed in the character of Bob Sawyer of ‘Pickwick Papers.’
However, the Apothecaries Act of 1815 began the discipline and reform of the medical profession and no longer could doctors practice without a diploma. Courses of study were prescribed and medical examinations acquired a reality.