OBITUARY : Sir William Shakespeare Bt

By Nelson, Martin | The Independent (London, England), March 3, 1996 | Go to article overview
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OBITUARY : Sir William Shakespeare Bt

Nelson, Martin, The Independent (London, England)

William Shakespeare practised as a general practitioner in Aylesbury for almost 20 years, from 1968 to 1987. "I enjoyed my work," he wrote, "and found it satisfying. I think and believe that my patients appreciated the care and attention I gave them. I do not think they were put off by my size. In medicine as in most things involving people, good rapport and communication are the most important things."

Affected himself by achondroplasia (short stature), Shakespeare had a unique understanding of the problems facing people of short stature which was greatly valued by the Restricted Growth Association (formerly the Association for Research into Restricted Growth), of which he was an active member and which he served as Vice-President from 1982 until 1996. The association is a self-help organisation set up 25 years ago to advise and support families and individuals of restricted growth. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 people in Britain are affected by the condition.

The son of Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare, the first Baronet, a Liberal MP and wartime minister, William Shakespeare was educated at Radley College and Clare College, Cambridge, where he read Natural Sciences. Willingly accepting the challenge of achondroplasia, he overcame the reservations of his parents and decided to read medicine. In 1953, he was accepted by Clare College, Cambridge, for pre-clinical studies. He subsequently went to St George's Hospital, London, for clinical training, where he met Sue Raffel, his future wife. His chosen speciality was paediatrics because, as he wrote, "I think I felt that being a small doctor might make me more acceptable to small anxious children and this seemed to be so."

His training began with house jobs in paediatrics and medicine. A Senior House Officer post in Paediatrics at King Edward VII Hospital in Windsor, and then that of Resident Medical Officer at the Children's Hospital in Chelsea, allowed him to achieve the DCH (Diploma in Child Health) in 1963. This led to a residency at the Boston Children's Hospital, Massachusetts (1963-64). During this time he married Sue Raffel; they announced their engagement on the 400th anniversary of his namesake the playwright's birth and appeared on US national television. Their best man was a close friend called Bill Macbeth.

Shakespeare returned to England to work as a Paediatric Registrar at Amersham, Stoke Mandeville and High Wycombe from 1964 to 1966. In 1967- 68 he went to Barbados and worked as a GP Assistant before commencing General Practice in Aylesbury.

From 1972 until his retirement in September 1995, he was also Clinical Assistant to the Department for Learning Difficulties at Manor House Hospital, Aylesbury, an important centre for the care of children with severe learning problems.

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