Dr. Frank Leighton Ker

Dr. Frank Leighton Ker (1907-1966)

Obituary of Frank Leighton Ker, O.B.E., T. D., M.B., Ch.B.;
Medical Superintendent, East Birmingham Hospital

British Medical Journal, 8 October, 1966

Dr. F. L. Ker, senior consultant physician at the East Birmingham Hospital and until lately its medical superintendent, died suddenly while on holiday at Larissa in Greece, at the age of 59.

Frank Leighton Ker was born in Edinburgh on 12 July 1907, the son of Claude Buchanan Ker, a distinguished fever physician and superintendent of the City Hospital, Edinburgh, where Frank Ker spent his early years.  He received his early education at Malvern College, where as a member of the Officers training Crops, he began his lifelong interest in the army.  He went on to Caius College, Cambridge, and Edinburgh, and graduating B.A. (honours) in 1928 and M.B. Ch.B. in 1931.

After holding house appointments at the Royal Infirmary and City Hospital, Edinburgh, he came to the Little Bromwich Hospital, as it then was, as deputy to the late Dr. J. McGarrity, whom he succeeded in 1050.  Except for the war years Frank Ker spent most of his life not only working for, but living in the Bromwich Hospital, through the pangs and convulsions of its transformation to a general hospital.  He showed remarkable ability to keep pace with the rapidly changing medical scene and to accept and assimilate new patterns of thought and ideas not only in medicine but in the administration and management of hospitals.  This he did without compromising in any way his basic principles of absolute honesty and integrity.

He was widely know in Britain and abroad as an authority in his field, though his contributions to medical literature were not numerous.  He rewrote his father’s textbook Ker’s Manual of Fevers, and contributed to a number of journals (he had an article in press at the time of his death).

He had joined the Territorial Army in 1932, and at the outbreak of war was appointed to a Field Ambulance (No. 145) serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium; he brought the B Company through the Dunkirk evacuation.  He returned to France in the Normandy invasion as Lieutenant-Colonel in command of Field Ambulance No. 130, with which he served for the rest of the war.  For his service in the R.A.M.C. he was awarded the O.B.E. and the Territorial Decoration.  On demobilisation he became a member of the Army Reserve until 1957.

An extremely hard worker with a strong sense of duty he never spared himself; indeed his life was devoted to the service of others.  He did not need the strong arm of discipline, rather he inspired his staff by his example.  He treated the sick as he treated everyone else, with kindness, compassion and consideration, and in return received the respect and deep affection of patients and colleagues alike.  In his later years ill-health compelled him to shed some of his responsibilities but he carried on with cheerfulness, courage and serenity, when he must have know that his life might come to an early and sudden end.

In 1938 he married Dr. Alice Liddle Mitchell of Blairgowrie, who tragically died after the birth of their daughter Aileen.  In 1947 he married Miss Isabella Chicken.  He loved his home and was a devoted husband and father.  To Mrs. Ker and his daughter Aileen we extend our deepest sympathy.

Return to Ker Memorial Prize page.


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