Intended for healthcare professionals


Paul Antoine (“Tom”) Voûte

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 30 September 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1907
  1. Tony Sheldon

    Pioneer of paediatric oncology

    In the 1960s Tom Voûte, then a junior doctor studying paediatrics at Amsterdam’s Emma Children’s Hospital, was being shown around a ward by a senior nursing sister. The nurse gestured towards a boy, declaring: “This one is destined to become an angel.” It was a time when the chances of children with cancer being cured were less than 30%. But Voûte found it “impossible” to accept that cancer could not be cured—he wanted to know more.

    This was his first patient in a career that laid the foundations for paediatric oncology in the Netherlands. He became the professional and public face of the fight against childhood cancer and enjoyed seeing a measurable degree of success in his lifetime. On his retirement in 2001 the chances of being cured had risen to more than 70%. He had predicted, 10 years earlier, that all childhood cancers would be treatable by the time he retired. He explained this as “optimism,” without which there can be no perspective.

    Voûte had originally wanted to be a sailor. The medical profession can thank his father for persuading him instead to study medicine …

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