Monday, 20 August 2012

Samuel Oram MD, FRCP (1913-1991) : eminent cardiologist

Samuel Oram was a grandson of Emily Dennis nee Ivall (1845-1911), a sister of my great grandfather George Ivall (1853-1932). He was a second cousin of my mother, Grace Evelyn Taylor nee Ivall (1922-2006). This profile contains information from Who’s Who (he is listed from 1958 to 1991) and from an obituary in the British Medical Journal.

Samuel was born 11th July 1913 in Camberwell (SE London). He came from quite a humble background. His parents were Samuel Henry Nathan Oram (1880-1953, a labourer at Sydenham gas works) and his wife Ada Oram nee Dennis (1886-1973). Samuel attended Peckham Central School then became a laboratory technician and had several papers published, including "Macroscopic method of demonstrating dorsal pores of lumbricus" in the School Science Review (1934). Lumbricus is a genus containing common earthworms in Europe. In 1934 he registered to study medicine at King’s College Hospital, London and qualified in 1939. His paper "Pick's disease of the pericardium" was published in the King's College Hospital Gazette that year. Samuel is listed as a registered medical practioner living at Horton Hospital, Epsom in the national register compiled in September 1939. He was awarded a gold medal by London University for his doctoral thesis in 1941. His paper "Pneumococcal septicaemia with recovery" was published in the British Medical Journal that year.

In 1940, Samuel married Ivy Rose Amato in Camberwell. They were both aged 26 and later had two daughters. His address, as given in the 1940 Medical Directory, was 38 Hooks Road, Peckham, London SE15.

Samuel served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel. After the war he became a consultant at King’s College Hospital and later the Senior Physician and Director of the Cardiac Department there. He introduced the technique of synchronised electrical defibrillation of the heart to the UK and with surgical colleagues, helped to establish open heart surgery at King’s. In 1960, with Mary Holt, he identified Holt-Oram syndrome, a rare condition combining upper limb abnormalities and congenital heart diseases. He wrote a textbook Clinical Heart Disease, a substantial work of 920 pages that was published in 1971, with a second edition in 1981. He was also an author of many scientific papers on cardiology. There is a ward named after him at King’s College Hospital.


His obituary says that Samuel was a superb teacher, having the gift of making difficult problems clear to all. His skill as a poker player served him well in questioning students, and as a raconteur he was much in demand at medical dinners. Seventeen of his staff became consultant cardiologists, including three professors and one became a professor in the care of the elderly. Despite his busy life, Samuel served many professional organisations. He championed the cause of cardiac technicians and was delighted when asked to be the president of their society.

Samuel had some high profile patients
From Aberdeen Evening Express 17 January 1951

Telephone directories give the following addresses for Samuel Oram MB FRCP

1942-46
2 Thorndon Gardens, Ewell, Epsom
1948-50
212 Denmark Hill, London, SE5
1948-55
2 Harley St, London, W1
1952-64
123 Alleyn Park, West Dulwich, London, SE21
1956-83
73 Harley St, London, W1
1958-83
Stubb Hill Cottage, Iping, Midhurst, West Sussex
1965-83
120 Court Lane, Dulwich, London, SE21

Samuel was devoted to his family and with his wife Ivy, enjoyed the theatre. His entry in Who’s Who says another recreation was golf (execrable) ! He achieved an A Level in French when in his 60s.

After he retired, Samuel and his wife moved to 133 Cedar Drive, Chichester. Ivy died in June 1991 and Samuel on 8 November 1991 aged 78. He was survived by his two daughters and three grandchildren.

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