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Biographical entry Lo, Thomas (1927 - 2012)

FRCS 1961; MB BS Hong Kong 1954; DLO 1967; FRCS Edin 1961.

30 April 1927
Hong Kong
1 May 2012
Napier, New Zealand
ENT surgeon


Tom Lo was a consultant ENT surgeon in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. He was born in Hong Kong, the son of a solicitor, Man Wai Lo, a member of the Legislative Council and, with his brother Sir Man Kam Lo, co-founder of the law firm of Lo & Lo. Tom's education was interrupted when he was 14 by the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in 1941. During the four years of the occupation his schooling was limited to English lessons at a private tutor's home, dodging Japanese sentries on the way, and private Chinese lessons at home. After the end of the Japanese occupation, Tom passed his matriculation exam and went on to study medicine at the re-opened University of Hong Kong, in spite of not having studied any science subjects. He qualified in 1954 and was a house surgeon and junior registrar to both Francis Stock, dean of the faculty of medicine and professor of surgery, and A R Hodgson, senior lecturer in orthopaedic surgery.

In 1958, with his wife and eight month old son, Tom went to Edinburgh and then Liverpool to prepare for the fellowship exams of the Edinburgh and London Colleges. He passed both in 1961. Then followed several years working as a surgical registrar and senior registrar at Clatterbridge Hospital, Cheshire, Kent and Canterbury Hospital, and Chester Royal Infirmary.

On a visit to England in 1966, Francis Stock advised Tom to take up ENT surgery, as the specialty might provide more opportunities to gain a consultant post. With a family of by then four young children, Tom returned to his studies and gained his diploma in laryngology and otology (DLO) in 1967. He was appointed as a senior registrar at the Liverpool Ear, Nose and Throat Infirmary, and later moved on to Alder Hey Children's Hospital and Sefton General Hospital in Liverpool.

In 1969 he applied for and was appointed as a consultant ENT surgeon by the Hawke's Bay Hospital Board in Napier, New Zealand. Tom and his family arrived in Napier in February 1970. He took over the private practice of Reg Bettington, who had been killed in an accident, and over the years built up a successful private practice of his own. For eight years Tom was the sole ENT specialist for Hawke's Bay and had operating sessions at both Napier Hospital and Hastings Memorial Hospital. In addition, he had operating sessions at the two private hospitals, Royston and Princess Alexandra. Most of his surgery was for tonsils and adenoids, grommets, stapedectomy and otosclerosis, operating with a microscope.

Tom was a somewhat reserved and quiet man, but he was well-liked and respected by colleagues, staff and patients. Chris Peychers, an audiologist, remembers Tom as 'a very caring person who was especially good with children'. He enjoyed close co-operation with Tom, resulting in a team approach to ear issues. Grace Williams, a retired theatre sister at Napier Hospital, recalls that it was wonderful to work with Tom: he always pleasant and courteous to patients and staff, and very good at explaining things to students.

Tom had always been keen on sports. With studies, work and a young family, in the UK he hadn't had the opportunity to play. In Napier he joined the Greendale Tennis Club and eventually built his own tennis court. Sunday tennis at home with friends and colleagues was a regular fixture. He was also very keen on cricket and enjoyed playing in the social grade of the Taradale Cricket Club. He was their opening bat and once made a century. When he retired from playing, he was invited to become patron of the club.

Tom retired in 1988 after a third ENT consultant was appointed for Hawke's Bay. In accepting Tom's retirement, A P Jones, the medical superintendent-in-chief at the time, noted: 'The hallmarks of your service over the years have been your conscientiousness, reliability and equable temperament.' He also advised Tom that the board had granted him 'honorary status providing public recognition of the high personal regard in which you are held by the board and your consultant colleagues in the two hospitals'.

In his retirement Tom enjoyed a lot of travelling, including going on safari in Kenya, trips to Antarctica, Machu Picchu, Petra and Jordan, Indonesia, and many other parts of the world. He made frequent visits to family members in Hong Kong, Britain and the United States. He also took great pleasure in spending time on a sheep and cattle farm in Hawke's Bay, which he had bought several years earlier. He learned much about farming and rural life from his farm manager.

In November 2002 Tom suffered a severe stroke that left him paralysed on his left side. He recovered his speech, but lost his peripheral vision, which sadly left him barely able to read or watch TV. Before the stroke he was an avid reader. Fortunately, he did not suffer any memory loss and at the nursing home where he lived he would from time to time be approached by student nurses who found they could discuss medical issues with him. All through the nine and a half years that Tom was confined to a wheelchair he remained patient and tolerant as ever and never complained about his condition.

Tom died on 1 May 2012, the day after his 85th birthday, after failing to recover from a chest infection. He was survived by his wife Annabelle, two sons and two daughters, their spouses and nine grandchildren.

Annabelle Lo

The Royal College of Surgeons of England