Leprosy: A Diagnostic Trap for Dermatopathologists Even in Endemic Areas

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J. Anat. (2008) 213, pp631–632

doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2008.01023.x

OBITUARY Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Professor Rex Ernest Coupland 1923–2008

Rex Coupland died on June 22nd 2008. A Life Member of the Anatomical Society, he joined in 1950, served as president in 1975–77 and variously as vice-president, recorder and committee member. He was also closely associated with the British Association of Clinical Anatomists and its president from 1977 to 1982. He was awarded the Wood Jones medal of the Royal College of Surgeons for contributions to clinical anatomy in 1984. During his active professional life it would have been difficult to find an anatomist who did not know him and, in countless cases, did not owe him a debt of gratitude. His death marks the passing of one of the major figures in our discipline. Rex was a world authority on chromaffin cells and his research contributions in high impact journals as well as his many reviews and his book ‘The Natural History of Chromaffin Cells’ are widely quoted to this day. While this remained his principal scientific interest, his significant involvement with the Nobel Prize-winning work on nuclear magnetic resonance imaging was an additional highlight towards the end of his academic career. From Mirfield Grammar School Rex went to Leeds Medical School where he qualified MB.ChB with honours in 1947, proceeded to MD with distinction in 1952, PhD in 1954 and DSc in 1970. He married Lucy Eileen Sargent in 1947. House jobs at Leeds General Infirmary were followed by the then mandatory National Service which he completed

as an RAF medical officer. Returning to Leeds as a demonstrator in Anatomy, Rex was influenced by its Professor, Archie Durwood, who at that time was head of a prestigious school of anatomy from which a number of eminent scientists emerged over the years. At the time it was almost essential for promising young academics to spend time working in America and in this tradition, Rex was assistant professor of Anatomy at Minnesota from 1955 to 1956, when he returned to the Leeds department as lecturer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his exceptional academic record, Rex Coupland was appointed to the chair of Anatomy at Queens College, Dundee in 1958 at the tender age of 34. He was now in a position to demonstrate his considerable talents as an academic leader and his department rapidly prospered. He was elected FRSE in 1960. The first new medical school to be established in the United Kingdom in the twentieth century was sited at Nottingham and Rex was appointed its Foundation Professor in Human Morphology in 1967. He was the first professor to join the dean David Greenfield and the latter relied greatly on him as a wise counsellor and friend in the complex discussions surrounding the drafting of the curriculum and the appointment of nearly all his professorial colleagues. It was natural that he should succeed Greenfield as dean in 1981, an office that he held with distinction until 1987. This was a time when cutbacks in the funding of medical education were beginning and the early euphoric years of establishing a new school had to some extent subsided. Undaunted and ever cheerful, Rex steered the ship, pointing out the insecurity of a new school within the university having to cope with staff reductions before being fully established. His successful advocacy is to a large extent responsible for to-day’s high status of Nottingham medicine. Creating a new department from scratch was an enormous undertaking and Rex, thanks to his enthusiasm and personal qualities, was able to recruit a dedicated staff with a significant proportion of medically qualified individuals – a subject he felt deeply about and expressed in his inaugural lecture entitled ‘Medical Science at the Crossroads’. A quotation from one of those he appointed runs ‘I felt it an enormous privilege to be recruited by Rex and join him as a member of the department in its early formative stages at a very stimulating time in the development of the Nottingham medical school. I regard it as the most enjoyable time in the whole of my academic career ...’ But omelettes are not made without breaking eggs and Rex was unafraid of stating his views directly and

© 2008 The Author Journal compilation © 2008 Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland

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forcefully. This made him over the years a valued member of several influential decision making bodies where his presence often stimulated positive action rather than the rehearsal of anodyne platitudes. These included the Biological Research Board of the MRC, the CMO’s academic forum, Chairmanship of the MRC Non-Ionising Radiation Committee, The Derbyshire Health Authority, the Trent Regional Health Authority and the Medical Sub-Committee of the UGC. Rex was an important player at a time of enormous flux in medical teaching. Like all of us, he witnessed the birth of many new ideas from the sensibly modernising to the frankly lunatic. His was a pragmatic view equally alien to the anatomical ‘dinosaurs’ and to the ‘sandal-footed basket weavers’ of the new age. His over-riding aim was to provide a solid foundation in basic medical science for the changing needs of today’s doctors rather than to adhere slavishly to the diktat of a rigid philosophy of ‘Medical Education’. We need more of his kind!

Rex Coupland retired from the chair of human morphology in 1989 and, as was his custom, he did the thing properly. The same enthusiasm that was brought to bear on his professional life could now be wholly directed to his personal life, above all to his family. It was a privilege for my wife and myself to meet from time to time with Eileen and Rex for lunch. On these occasions he conveyed a sense of optimism and contentment as he talked affectionately about his son Michael and daughter Lesley, his grandchildren and finally his great-grandchildren. Not for him the grumpy old misanthrope. Here was a man who, supported by a devoted wife, had made the most of what life had to offer and who had given much more than he had taken. Modesty and generosity of spirit were his hallmarks and those who knew him, however slightly, were the better for it. Felix Beck [email protected]

© 2008 The Author Journal compilation © 2008 Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland

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