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Biographical entry Parsons, Howard Michael (1918 - 2010)

MRCS 1942; FRCS 1956; DLO 1949; LRCP 1942.

14 April 1918
21 September 2010
ENT surgeon


Howard Michael Parsons was an ENT surgeon in Lewisham and then Croydon. He was born in Paddington, London, on 14 April 1918, during a Zeppelin raid, the third child of John Parsons, a master builder, and his wife Maude Parsons née Percival. He was educated at St Andrews Prep School, Eastbourne and then Radley College.

He then read medicine at University College Hospital Medical School, London, where he was 'fast tracked' through medicine during the Second World War. On qualifying in 1942, he was soon recruited into the RAMC as a medical officer with the rank of captain, serving with the Long Range Desert Group in North Africa and Italy. His daring rescue of his commanding officer, who had been severely injured in a parachute drop into the occupied Albanian mountains, speaks of his courage and adaptability. Having diagnosed a fractured spine and encased his boss' back in plaster, he then escorted him via mountainous mule tracks to the coast and to repatriation to Brindisi. On the journey he treated numerous wounded partisans, often operating on kitchen tables lit by oil lamps.

After his wartime exploits, Michael Parsons returned to civilian life and trained as an ear, nose and throat surgeon. He served as a consultant to the Lewisham Hospital Group for 16 years, and then to the Croydon Group for 17 years. He was also the assistant director of the speech and hearing centre (audiology unit) and a consultant surgeon at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, Gray's Inn Road and Golden Square in London for three years, and a senior consultant otologist to London County Council for four years. Having retired in 1983, he nevertheless continued in private practice until the age of 72.

His practice was general ENT, with a particular interest in head and neck cancer. He was an experienced and popular medical manager, who chaired many committees in Croydon and led the development of Shirley Oaks, Croydon's first private hospital, becoming the first chairman.

In 1942 he married Sarah Muriel Foley, a staff nurse at University College Hospital, who served with Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service during the war. She landed in Normandy shortly after D-Day and was nursing in Caen while it was being bombed by the Allies. They shared an enthusiasm for motor racing; in the 1950s this led to annual trips to watch the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Later this experience was replicated at home by owning a succession of Jaguars and Aston Martins.

Michael Parsons died on 21 September 2010 at the age of 92, leaving his wife, son Christopher, daughter Luise, a general practitioner, and four grandchildren.

Neil Weir

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from: BMJ 2010 341 6679; The Telegraph 1 November 2010].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England