Intended for healthcare professionals


Walter Sefton Suffern

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 18 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5618
  1. Alisdair Stewart,
  2. Hilary Fyson,
  3. Diana Page,
  4. Richard Suffern

Walter Sefton Suffern was born in Belfast and educated at Leeds Grammar School and Leeds University Medical School. He spent six months as a house physician at St James’s Hospital, Leeds, which was a steep learning curve.

In December 1942, he married a fellow medic, Alison Palmer, and within weeks set sail on an Atlantic convoy to North Africa and the Royal Army Medical Corps. He and Alison would not see each other for more than two years.

The conflict moved to Italy, and with general duties in field units and general hospitals, Sefton was promoted to be a trainee medical specialist under lieutenant colonels Richardson and Rosenheim, who after the war became presidents of the Royal College of Physicians and were knighted.

Sefton returned to England in 1945 to find Alison in hospital with rheumatic fever.

After completing his general training in Leeds General Infirmary and at St James’s, he developed his interest in cardiology, with travelling fellowships to Stockholm and Philadelphia. First appointed as a consultant physician to hospitals in the Airedale area, he moved to Harrogate and Ripon in 1959.

A gentle, courteous man, he was a fine role model for generations of young doctors and nurses. His first priority was to provide a service to all the family doctors over a wide area of Yorkshire. His second priority was to run the medical wards in all the local hospitals and, thereafter, to encourage the development of all medical specialties, with the gradual arrival of the new Harrogate District Hospital.

After retiring in 1984, he continued to enjoy fly fishing, golf, and bridge. Alison predeceased him in 2016 after 73 happy years together. Sefton leaves three children, nine grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.

A fine doctor, Christian gentleman, wise friend, and valued colleague.

Consultant general physician and cardiologist Harrogate and Ripon (b 1919; q Leeds 1942; MD, FRCP), died from anaemia, atrial fibrillation, and frailty of old age on 4 August 2019

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