John Kingdom Guy Webb

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 18 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4578
  1. Alan Craft

John Webb, who died on 17 August 2010, aged 91, was one of the first generation of doctors who specialised exclusively in the care of children. He had a very strong Christian faith and was inspired by a lecture from Dr Frank Lake, a visitor to the children’s department in Newcastle where he was training. He was spellbound and deeply moved by the description of the Christian Medical College in Vellore. Overnight he became convinced that Vellore was where he wanted to work, and that conviction stayed with him for the next 18 years.

When he arrived in India only six of that massive country’s medical colleges had a children’s department and there was only a very small number of dedicated paediatricians. For the first five years in Vellore he was the only paediatrician, and, as well as a vast clinical workload of sick children with multiple disease, he had to inspire and teach a new generation of doctors who would devote themselves to the care of children. The third strand of his role as head of department was to instigate research. As with everything he did, he did this with meticulous attention to detail. He and his group were the first to identify Japanese B virus as the cause of epidemics of encephalitis in Tamil Nadu and filarial infection as the hitherto unknown cause of epidemics …

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