Pieter Van Boxel

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 09 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e912
  1. Andrew West

After a year in Durban, Pieter Van Boxel moved to Britain, where he worked as a casualty officer in Bath, and a senior house officer in Guy’s Hospital before obtaining a Geoffrey Knight research fellowship at the Maudsley. He returned to Guy’s for his senior registrar years, where, famed for his dashing good looks and love of travel and good food, he met his future wife, Mo.

In 1980 he took up his consultant post in west Berkshire, where he worked for the following 24 years. Pieter had an unmistakable clinical style; relishing the ridiculous and poised between irreverence and respect, he engaged children and parents into a therapeutic complicity that often surprised them back to health. When colleagues’ rooms were filled with child friendly paraphernalia, his remained an office in which he offered only himself.

Pieter was one of the few therapists who could successfully and respectfully use paradox and colleagues occasionally had the strange sensation of being helped to a decision by this means. He was instinctively systemic in his approach but retained an unwavering allegiance to his medical roots, believing that the primary professional relationship of the service should be with general practitioners and paediatricians. If avoiding conflict—or engineering its irrelevance—is a weakness, then that was his.

He was readily posted to localities and clinics according to need and he would quickly obtain the long lasting loyalty of clinical and secretarial members of the team. He never expected his methods to be slavishly adopted by his trainees, rather leaving us with a wish to emulate him by being ourselves. He was a keen teacher, proud of his trainees’ achievements, but modest in relation to his own contribution, for example to the higher training programme and as clinical director. Pieter distrusted jargon and protocol, was suspicious of “evidence,” and had no time for power if it was wielded in an unintelligent or unfriendly way. He retired in time to avoid the worst of current upheavals in healthcare and before the digital revolution had fully taken hold, but clearly missed his work. An immensely proud father, he leaves Mo, three daughters, and two grandsons.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e912


  • Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Berkshire (b 1946; q Cape Town, South Africa, 1972; MRCPsych, FRCPsych), d 26 January 2011.