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Dr Simon Newell

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 10 August 2016, of Dr Simon Newell, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer and Consultant Neonatologist.  The following tribute has been written by his friends and colleagues, Jonathan Darling and Lawrence Miall.

Dr Simon Newell tragically died at the age of 59 in a cycling accident in the Lake District. He was a consultant neonatologist in the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, and an Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer in the University of Leeds. He leaves behind his wife, three children – aged 26, 30 and 31 – and a baby granddaughter. He had been due to retire jointly with his wife Debra in September.

Simon (as he was known to nearly everyone) did his undergraduate medical training in the School of Medicine in Leeds, qualifying in 1980, and then did his paediatric training in Yorkshire, becoming one of the youngest consultant appointments to St James’s University Hospital, as a neonatologist and paediatric gastroenterologist. With the creation of the Leeds Children’s Hospital in 2010, his main clinical base moved to the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI). He was an astute clinician and gifted communicator, much loved and appreciated by trainees, parents and his older patients. He later relinquished his gastroenterology to focus on neonatology, while becoming increasingly involved in the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in a number of roles, including Officer for Examinations and then Vice-President for Training and Assessment from 2010 to 2015. In this role he oversaw the introduction and updating of the national online work place based assessment platform, as well as a review of the structure of the MRCPCH examination and the College’s initial response to the Greenaway Review. He acted as media spokesman for the College, giving balanced, clear and helpful comments on complex issues. His significant contributions to paediatrics and the esteem in which he was held were recognised this year with the award of Fellowship of the College.

He was an inspirational and gifted teacher, with a knack for a memorable or humorous anecdote or pithy one-liner to drive home a point or enliven a presentation. He once recounted how, as an undergraduate volunteer for a physiology experiment, he sat on the roof of the medical school in winter in his underwear until delirious with a core temperature of 32 degrees – he said this gave him sympathy with babies who had therapeutic hypothermia years later! He always found time to teach students and trainees; his bedside tutorials were particularly valued, and trainees regularly rated him as inspirational. He was co-author of a popular paediatric textbook (Lecture Notes: Paediatrics) through three editions. He was closely involved in the Leeds MBChB course, with roles including Academic Sub dean for Electives for some years. He was active in research, and published many scientific papers primarily in neonatal medicine, gastroenterology and medical education. He played a key role in setting up the current national Minidex study (looking at very low dose dexamethasone to facilitate the extubation of ventilator dependent preterm babies), which was successful in obtaining £0.5m of NIHR funding. As a respected expert witness, he was called to the Royal Courts of Justice numerous times. He was a trustee for the children’s charity “SPARKS” and spoke regularly at their fundraising events.  He saw problems as opportunities, and would often find creative solutions. In one small example, when ties were banned as part of infection control measures, he started wearing his trademark bow ties. To ease the travel challenge of regular work in London, he bought a Brompton bicycle and mastered the art of arriving from the station to the LGI by bike, collapsing it into his car boot and driving off, all in one seamless movement.

Outside of work, he was a loving husband and father who delighted in family time and being part of his children’s lives. He spoke with joy of his new baby granddaughter, and was looking forward to more time with Debra and the family in retirement. He loved the Lake District, with its opportunities for hill walking and cycling. He was an accomplished flautist, and could deliver podium presentations in fluent French.

Simon brought his enthusiasm for life, love of people, and incisive, inquisitive mind to his many roles, and has made an immense contribution to paediatrics both locally in Leeds and nationally. He will be sorely missed.

A Memorial Service will be held at 1.00pm on Friday 26 August 2016 at St Giles Church, Church Hill, Bramhope, LS16 9BA, on which day the flag on the Parkinson Building will be flown at half-mast in Simon’s memory.

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