David Lockhart Cowan

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 01 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2235
  1. A I G Kerr

    David Lockhart Cowan was the son of James Cowan, a respected general practitioner in Penicuik, and his wife, Merryl. He attended school at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh before going to Glenalmond, where he completed his education. He qualified as a doctor in Edinburgh in 1965 and progressed to FRCSEd in 1969. He was appointed a consultant in ear, nose, and throat surgery in 1974 and pursued a successful career in Edinburgh, working mostly at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children but also at the City Hospital and Western General Hospital. After a long and fruitful career he retired in 2006.

    His interest in otolaryngology began early in his career, and his aptitude in that subject led him to be appointed consultant in 1974. His principle interest was in diseases of the ear, nose, and throat in children, particularly with regard to assessment and treatment of deafness. He was instrumental in establishing the Paediatric Hearing Assessment Unit in Edinburgh and kept up this interest until his retirement. He was a highly respected member of staff and undertook a prodigious workload. He was universally popular with parents, children, and professional colleagues and unfailingly treated all with respect and consideration. He was an exceptionally kind man who would go out of his way to reassure and comfort his young patients and their parents. He would always try to diffuse professional disagreements and help solve disputes.

    He was well known and respected within otolaryngology circles. He was an examiner for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh for many years, and he was also a council member of the British Association of Otolaryngologists, president of the Scottish Otolaryngological Society, and ENT adviser to the chief medical officer of Scotland. His academic achievements include writing several papers, as well as chapters in Scott-Brown’s Diseases of the Ear, Nose and Throat and Forfar and O’Neill’s text book of paediatrics, and coauthoring a textbook on paediatric otolaryngology.

    Away from work, his main sporting pursuit was golf, which he played to a very high level. He captained a very successful Edinburgh University golf team in 1963, which won both the Scottish and British University golf championship. He was an active member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, winning medals in its competitions, and he was also a member at Elie and Muirfield. Latterly he spent many happy days at Muirfield playing foursomes, a form of golf he enjoyed and excelled at. He was a very steady player with an exceptional short game and an excellent partner in a match.

    He married Eileen Masterton, a physiotherapist, in 1996 and they went on to have four children, three boys and a girl. They have all pursued successful careers. As a couple they were devoted to their children and were a very close family. Eileen unfortunately predeceased David in 2002 after 36 years of happy marriage. Latterly he derived great pleasure in being with his seven grandchildren, and they gave him great comfort after he retired. Tragically within six months of retirement he had a devastating stroke, which he coped with admirably without complaint. He made some progress but succumbed to another stroke 13 months later.

    He will be remember as a very kind, caring man who delighted in socialising and spending time with his family. He was an accomplished doctor and a wonderful colleague to work with and a true gentleman. He leaves behind his mother and sister, as well as his four children and seven grandchildren.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2235


    • Former consultant otolaryngologist Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh (b 1941; q Edinburgh 1965; FRCSEd), d 29 February 2008.

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