Quote of the Month: Professor Victor Dubowitz

At a clinical level one experience that stood out from my houseman days, we admitted patients usually overnight and in the morning had a ward round with the Consultant. And I was talking about this young African boy, he was about in his teens, and he’d come in and I said he was extremely uncooperative, he wouldn’t open his mouth, I couldn’t see what his throat looked like, and I couldn’t examine his abdomen because he was very uncooperative, and wouldn’t relax and so on. And then the Consultant looked at me and said, ‘I think you’d better put him in the side ward; he’s got tetanus.’ And I completely missed a classical case of tetanus with rigid mouth and unable to open his jaw, rigid abdomen. But it adds to one’s life experience. Dubowitz, Victor: transcript of a video interview (27-Sep-2016).
Professor Victor Dubowitz BSc MB ChB MD PhD FRCP FRCPCH (b. 1931) graduated in medicine in Cape Town (1954), followed by residencies in medicine and surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital. He came to the UK in 1956 for 18 months to get broad clinical experience, exposure to culture, and planned to return to general practice in South Africa. A three-week locum at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children (Carshalton, Surrey) exposed him to two wards with muscular dystrophy patients. Having come for three weeks he stayed for three years, initially as a Senior House Officer for a year, which he combined with doing muscle biopsies and then got interested in doing research and contacted Professor Everson (Tony) Pearse at Hammersmith Hospital, a pathologist with a special interest in enzyme histochemistry. He embarked on a study of enzyme histochemistry of normal and dystrophic muscle, completing an MD Thesis in 1960. He realized his heart was really in clinical medicine and paediatrics and successfully applied for a paediatric lectureship in Sheffield where he spent the next 13 years, becoming Reader in Child Health and Developmental Neurology, setting up a muscle unit and a basic research group and completing a PhD on the histochemistry of developing and diseased muscle. In 1973 he applied for the newly established Chair of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine at Hammersmith, and moved a large research group with him, ultimately creating the Jerry Lewis Muscle Research Labs, funded by the American MDA, on a hospital roof. He rapidly established an internationally recognized paediatric centre for Muscle Disease of clinicians and basic scientists, with a primary emphasis on the clinical management of patients and their long-term follow-up. In 1990 he established the multidisciplinary journal Neuromuscular Disorders of which he remains Editor-in-Chief. In 1995 he founded the World Muscle Society, which aimed primarily at providing a forum for young researchers to present their work. Elected foundation President, he was re-elected every three years until the present (2017). Professor Dubowitz published his autobiography (Ramblings of a Peripatetic Paediatrician) in 2005.
Professor Dubowitz has also contributed to the Wellcome Witness Seminar on Origins of Neonatal Intensive Care and the forthcoming The Therapeutic Implications of Muscular Dystrophy Genomics.