Peter and Burkitt’s and Babies

I should start by telling you a little about me – Peter; then we’ll move on to Burkitt’s, and to Babies and then to other matters.

I am Peter McCormick, born 1938 in Manchester, UK, into a humble working-class family who were rightly surprised when I seemed to pass enough exams at school to get to University. In 1957 I went up to Edinburgh Medical School and in 1963 acquired the MB.

It took but a short time to realize that I loved more than anything – medicine for children; Paediatrics, as it is called the world over. So it was that most of my early medical posts were in that specialty. I had gained the Diploma in Child Health from London, reached the grade of Registrar at the Teaching Hospitals of Leeds, UK, when I managed to fail the major examination – Membership of the Royal College of Physicians – that would have enabled advancement to Consultant Paediatrician status. Having by then a wife, a baby, no spirit for further fight and little spare cash, I left hospital service and entered General Practice with an interest in children. This was in Kettering, a market town in the east Midlands, and there I remained for twenty-six years.

Due largely to the rape of the National Health Service by Mrs Thatcher and her Minister of Health henchman Kenneth Clarke, I retired from the NHS in 1995, at the age of 57, thus sacrificing the full pension, but was not, and am not – discouraged by that fact. It has long been my view that the NHS looks after its servants very nicely; I have nothing to complain about it in principle, and Kettering has been kind to us too.

My first activity after retirement was to cross Norwegian Lapland in the ice and snow, on skis, hauling my sledge behind me. This raised £3,000 for Save the Children in Kettering. They said thank you and made me their President. The Rotarians of Kettering awarded me the Paul Harris Fellowship.

Between Lapland and my first venture in Africa I took time to visit Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and gained their Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Those were great months; I was much happier as a mature student in Liverpool than I was as a shy immature and uninformed youth in Edinburgh.

A lady called Anita Smith had been my patient for over a decade. She came to see me on the last day of my work as a GP and asked me what I would be doing after the Lapland trip. My answer, and all that followed, and still goes on today, and I suspect will go on until my body and mind fall apart – led to my visiting the hospital in The Gambia which she had been supporting since 1992, and to my accepting to be the Medical Advisor for her Charity the Bansang Hospital Appeal (BHA). I still hold this honorary post, and Anita still devotes her life to Bansang Hospital.

I also had invitations to other sub-Saharan hospital, in particular to Cameroon, which I first visited and worked as Children’s Physician, in 1997. I have become deeply attached to two hospitals in the anglophone North West Province of Cameroon and visit them as Volunteer Children’s Physician twice a year. It was here I first saw a child suffering from Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL) – a horrifying cancer of children mainly in central, east and west tropical Africa. My work there is chiefly in two mission hospitals, but for two years I spent time in the main government hospital in the NW Province – Provincial Hospital Bamenda (BPH), where I was employed by another non-governmental organization called Child Advocacy International (CAI) which is based at Stoke on Trent, about 100 miles north of Kettering. I remain a member and supporter of CAI and of BHA, but my heart really belongs to my two Baptist hospitals, to the staff there, and to the poor children there who suffer BL. As for Babies – about which you can also read – I have had an input in The Gambia, and in BPH, and in the two Baptist hospitals. As with BL, my commitment to the care of the newborn is total. Being too old now for continual on-call work in general paediatrics, I have focused onto Burkitt’s and Babies. I think it has a nice ring to it?

These two projects are hugely satisfying to me on several levels; they save lives; they involve a certain amount of gentle research; they require in general only simple medicines, readily learned techniques, and inexpensive equipment; they involve teaching and training of staff; they should become sustainable; they might become continental; they involve considerable hands-on paediatrics without the loss of too much sleep.

So, when in Africa I am still a practicing Children’s Physician, which I am trained in and love. When at home in the UK I am anxious to keep up to date with the developments in my two fields of interest by way of medical journals, meetings with colleagues, conferences etc. It is also necessary for me to seek funding for my projects, and in this I am not trained, and the job is somewhat frustrating and irksome for me. But there it is; it has to be tackled, and I mustn’t moan excessively about it. Jenny reminds me that I have made this bed and must lie in it; I have created the rod for my own back and must not complain too bitterly when it hurts. Like the soldiers of yesteryear I have as it were accepted the King’s shilling and must not complain if I am shot at.

Herein lies the reason for the fact that I have recently gathered about me a few likeminded friends as Trustees, and made my fund-raising efforts to be a Charity registered with the Charity Commission of the UK. Herein also is the reason for this newly created website. I care fervently for children with Burkitt’s lymphoma, and I care deeply for the plight of the newborn in the developing world. I want to impress readers of this site with these pressing issues. I want my work and its objects to be known not only in Kettering, and Northamptonshire, and the United Kingdom – but globally.

Thank you for reading thus far

Dr Peter McCormick  Founder, BTMAT