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Historic Hospital Admission Records Project

Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow

Robert Henry Parry (1858-1943) FRFPS, FRCS Edin.

Born in Wales Robert Parry, son of an excise officer, took the major step of moving to Glasgow to study medicine at the Royal Infirmary where a decade earlier Lister had developed the antiseptic approach to surgery. It was also a time of some turbulence in the teaching of medicine at Glasgow because in the previous decade the University had moved to the west of the city and the Western Infirmary had become the University’s teaching hospital. As a result, the Royal Infirmary lost all the students as dressers, who did much of the in-hospital care. It responded to this crisis by established the Glasgow Royal Infirmary School of Medicine in 1876. This became the St Mungo Medical College. Robert Parry attained qualification in 1885 by passing the exams to become a Licentiate of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Moving for a brief period to practice in Hull after qualification, he returned to Glasgow in 1886, appointed the resident medical officer to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RGSCH). His contact with the RGSCH continued through the rest of his professional life. He was appointed an extra honorary surgeon at the Dispensary in 1889 and then a visiting surgeon in the position vacated by Macewen in 1894 when he moved to the Chair in Surgery at the Western Infirmary. Parry in that year was admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and in 1898 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

In the meantime he was appointed surgeon to the newly opened Victoria Infirmary. This appointment, as a young relatively inexperienced surgeon along with the English surgeon AE Maylard, created a highly successful team, and Parry’s enthusiastic teaching programmes became widely appreciated, extending to some of the medical students at University of Glasgow. Parry, with a group of other young enthusiastic surgeons, ran the Western Medical School with classes in Surgery and Surgical Anatomy.

Described as ‘a surgeon with delicacy in manipulation and with precision in technique’, his enthusiastic approach was transmitted to the patients. As a visiting surgeon to the RGSCH he continued his particular interest in paediatric surgery until 1914. However, when the newly built Children’s Hospital opened at Yorkhill, in that year, the Board decided that its clinicians had to be committed full-time to children’s care. Unable to make this commitment as a consequence of his large practice at the Victoria Infirmary, Parry was forced to resign from the Children’s Hospital. The Board also respected his long contribution and in acknowledgement of this appointed him as Honorary Consulting Surgeon – a position he held until his death in 1943.

Parry published on a variety of topics including ‘Regional surgery of the upper and lower extremities’, ‘Obstetric paralysis treated by operation’, ‘Tinnitus treated by division of the auditory nerve’, ‘Operation for removal of tuberculous glands in the neck without leaving a visible cicatrix’, and many others. After resigning from the RGSCH he served as a Major in the Royal Army Medical Corp. He performed many orthopaedic procedures and was a significant contributor to the development of orthopaedic surgery. After his retirement from the Victoria Infirmary he moved to the south of England and ill health limited further work; loss of sight prohibited him from writing up many of the fascinating clinical features he had observed and managed.