Saturday, 30 June 2012

Chris Atkins (Chips)

Chips Atkins with Kilanti
 My Guys student days were some of the happiest of my life.    Artistry passed on by Stewart Cameron, Maurice Lessof, and Rex Laurie forged the lynch pin of my clinical practice.    Best remembered moments were Saturdays post Guys B, or was it C team, Rugby pub crawls ending up at the hop.    Christmas at Sophies Hostel, and a cruise with David Turner from Burnham-on-Crouch to Newhaven in a 20ft gaff rigged cutter built in 1911. We found ourselves in the most horrifying wind against tide conditions off Beachy Head.    Eventually we managed to get into Newhaven harbour where a very large Cross-Channel Ferry was unable to leave due to the weather conditions.   There was very little spoken during the last few hours but after we had anchored, David who hadn’t sailed before said “Is it always like this when you go sailing?”

 In 1967 a year after marrying Kilanti a student nurse on Diplock I started rheumatology at Kings. 3 years later I completed my training as an immunology, and rheumatology fellow at the University of Southern California working on the choroid plexus in cerebral lupus. Ironically it was only then I realized that Peter Gorer, who had given us a lecture or two as undergraduates, was so famous.  He was the first one to identify the HLA antigens system which allowed others to engage in transplantation of human organs.    He died of lung cancer in 1961.    His co-worker George Snell received the Nobel Prize for their work some 19yrs later.

While on the west coast we traveled to Vancouver Island, and were captivated by its rugged beauty, with the promise of excellent cruising.     So in 1971 we immigrated to Canada, and I set up practice in the hub city of Nanaimo.    The sailing was outstanding, and we started a family    . I ran a number of outpatient clinics throughout the Island, and was intrigued by the unusual rheumatic disease in Nuu Chah Nulth Native Indians a well defined linguistic group still live in their natural habitat on the west coast of the Island.    This triggered a study with the Department of Genetics at the University of British Columbia.        We moved to Victoria in 1982, and I started to work on an electronic sensor to standardize the palpation pressure needed to define an episodic, weather dependant polyarthropathy, common to the Native Indians.

 In '95, I was elected F.R.C.P, and the following year Adjunct Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, at the University of Victoria.      The most satisfying period of my career was in “overtime”, when in 2008 aged 70, I teamed up with Lee Nelson at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, studying microchimerism in rheumatoid nodules.   A grant ensued, and now , back to art, I work with computational chemists at The University of Victoria, whose beautiful models compare risk, and protective gene products in rheumatoid arthritis

We have 2 children. Mark a 4th generation MD, is kind enough to run with his old Dad.  Shanti lives in SanFrancisco, and is very much like her grandpa.  Her daughter Samantha is our only grandchild.   Megan, Mark's wife is expecting.
Shanti with the portrait of her grandfather  Hedley Atkins

  Looking back I realize what a privilege it was to have trained at Guy’s. Maybe it’s just my age, but I am bound to believe that we absorbed our art in a golden age of clinical teaching.
 I am sorry that I will not be able to attend the 50th reunion, for those who can, have a great time.
Chips Atkins

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