Thomas Arthur KempBMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7488.422 (Published 17 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:422
Thomas Arthur KempConsultant physician who twice captained England at rugby
Thomas Arthur Kemp, consultant physician St Mary’s Hospital, London, 1947-75 (b 1915; q Cambridge/St Mary’s 1940; MD, FRCP), d 26 November 2004 aged 89.
Tom Kemp was an exceptional rugby player. While still a medical student he captained England at outside half in the two uncapped international matches in 1940. From Cambridge University he went to St Mary’s as a clinical student in 1937. After qualifying in 1940 he rapidly obtained his MRCP while working there and at Harefield Hospital before joining the army in 1943 as a medical specialist and serving in Egypt and Iraq. On his release in 1947 he returned to St Mary’s as a post-service registrar before being appointed to the consultant staff later that year.
In those early postwar years he continued with his first class rugby, playing for Richmond and captaining England for the last time in 1948. During his career he played for Cambridge University, St Mary’s, Richmond, Lancs, Middx, London Counties, the army, Barbarians, and England. Even after his serious playing days were over he and his old scrum half partner, "Cocky" Cockburn, late and last medical superintendent at St Mary’s, would take a team of young medical students on most Wednesdays throughout the season to play rugby against various schools in England. His aim was to entertain, educate, and enthuse them in the pleasures of open rugby (perhaps even encourage some of them to come to St Mary’s and read medicine!). His student team was not allowed to kick for touch and the style was running and passing, and ungentlemanly conduct was unthinkable. He was still at the age of 42, following much service to his young student centres, able to demonstrate his own skill with his classic dummy, side step, and swerve.
As a physician he was gentle, caring, observant, and an avoider of tests and procedures unlikely to be of proven benefit to his patients. In spite of his international sporting reputation he was the most modest of men and his genuine interest and friendship with his hospital colleagues was a warmth felt by all, something that often sadly seems lacking in the present day hospital environment. He was particularly interested in the physical and emotional health of young adults and soon after his appointment started a student health service for all medical and nursing students at St Mary’s, becoming in time president of the British Student Health Service. His interest in students was all consuming, be it in their undergraduate activities or their education. He believed teaching should be inspirational and his quality as an educator was at its best when teaching and guiding small groups of students within a hospital environment. He believed it was the duty of a teacher to fire the curiosity of all who would learn and to demonstrate by example how to behave as a doctor.
He served on the Rugby Football Union from 1953, was an England selector, and was president in 1971-2. He was also a long serving president of the England Students Rugby Union. The increasing professionalism of recent years distressed him greatly as he always believed that rugby should be played for the enjoyment and friendship of the players and that so much emphasis on results had made the game unnecessarily violent.
He was an exceptional fundraiser for his old school, Denstone, for St Mary’s Hospital and Medical School, and for the several schools of which he was a governor.
He had a long and active retirement continuing his philanthropic activities and his love of early English silver and Chinese and Worcester porcelain. It was only in the last few years of his long life that he became increasingly disabled, and throughout this time he was lovingly looked after by his wife Ruth, who survives him, together with their son, daughter, and four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in the hospital chapel of St Mary’s on 16 March 2005. [Stanley Simmons, Alasdair Fraser]
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