Obituary: Dr C. A. Pearson

Charles Andrew Pearson, medical practitioner: born Shaoyang, Hunan, China 10 December 1921; OBE 1974; married 1948 Jean Frost (three sons, one daughter); died Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk 7 November 1997.

To choose at the outset of a promising medical career to spend it entirely overseas, in places where both the creature comforts and the technical facilities taken for granted at home must be forgone, was much more common in the 1940s than it is today. To stick with that decision, when political turmoil provided every excuse to return to Britain, was much less common. C.A. Pearson not only did that; he went on to do some of his most distinguished work in the final phase of his career, and in retirement, as an advocate of the paramount importance of generalist doctors in the promotion of health, especially in Africa and in China.

China was where Andrew Pearson was born, where his father ran a hospital, and where, after studying medicine in Liverpool, he returned in 1946 with the Methodist Missionary Society. He took a special interest in leprosy, translating Sir Leonard Rogers and Ernest Muir's standard textbook into Mandarin, and when in 1951 other missionaries were required to leave Pearson was given the option of becoming a Leprosy Adviser in Hubei Province. But China at that time was not the place for an expatriate to raise a family and he and his wife, Jean, regretfully took their leave. They were redeployed by the Missionary Society to Nigeria.

In 1952 Pearson was appointed medical superintendent of the Wesley Guild Hospital, a Methodist foundation at Ilesha in Western Nigeria where he stayed for 23 years. He was plunged immediately into the administration of a major building programme as well as heading a medical team that was consistently short-staffed. He had to be an architect, builder and plumber as well as a doctor.

The reputation of a hospital, however, derives not only from its facilities but primarily from the quality of its staff and Pearson built a greatly respected team of Nigerians and expatriates. One of his early colleagues was David Morley, who pioneered a revolution in child healthcare through the renowned weight monitoring programmes he developed in and around Ilesha. It was here that the first ever measles vaccine was given a trial and, in order that there should be no question of using the Nigerian population as guinea-pigs, Pearson typically insisted that his own four children should be included.

Ilesha became the centre of world attention for its innovative and effective approach to both preventive and curative medicine, and it was described by the Overseas Development Agency's health adviser at the time as "the model hospital". But, as in many countries, the role of non-governmental hospitals was reappraised following independence. Amid the coups and counter- coups that followed Nigeria's Biafran war, government grants were slashed and Ilesha's future was uncertain and precarious. In 1975 the hospital became part of the Ife University Teaching Hospital Complex.

Writing 20 years later, the present Chief Medical Director of the Complex, Professor R.O.A. Makanjuola, said that, at the time of the government takeover, "Dr and Mrs Pearson, and some other dedicated healthworkers, both missionary and Nigerian, were treated disgracefully." The Pearsons were undeterred and Andrew became Chief Medical Officer for the University of Ibadan's community health programme. He trained medical students in community healthcare and general practice. Then, in 1983, he became the Director of Training in General Practice at the National Postgraduate Medical College in Lagos.

Before leaving Nigeria in 1985, the Pearsons were made honorary chiefs. They retired to Bury St Edmunds but Andrew Pearson undertook consultancies in GP training and attended conferences in many countries. He had never forgotten his Mandarin and when China emerged from its isolation he jumped at the chance to return. Within the international GP organisation Wonca (the World Organisation of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians), he was instrumental in setting up two world congresses on rural health, one of which was held in Shanghai. On this and other occasions he had the joy of meeting old friends and colleagues who had survived the Cultural Revolution.

He was the author of numerous papers, on subjects as varied as leprosy and latrines construction, tuberculosis and training. In retirement he wrote the history of the Wesley Guild Hospital, Front-Line Hospital (1996) and a textbook, Medical Administration for Front-Line Doctors (1990).

He believed in the complementarity of community-based primary healthcare and district hospitals. In the debate within the medical profession about how to achieve the World Health Organisation's commitment to Health for All by the year 2000, he reasoned that a comprehensive health service depends on the allocation of adequate resources to both.

Always quietly spoken and courteous, Andrew Pearson argued firmly and persuasively for his convictions. Foremost among these was his Christian faith. He was a lay preacher for 48 years; the courage of his convictions made him a conscientious objector to military service in the Second World War and underpinned half a century of conscientious humanitarian service thereafter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all