Papworth Heroes

Hugh Fleming

First cardiologist to be appointed at Papworth Hospital.

Dr Hugh Fleming was appointed as the first cardiologist in East Anglia in 1959 and held the post of Senior Consultant at Papworth Hospital for 30 years.

He travelled from Australia, borrowing the fare, and on arrival was told by the Chairman of the Hospital Medical Committee: 'I understand that there is no need for a cardiologist but we suppose you will find something to do.'

Cardiology was in its infancy and Dr Fleming worked single-handedly for seven years building up the unit from scratch, providing diagnostic services for the cardiac surgeons, establishing outpatient clinics throughout East Anglia and providing inpatient care at Papworth and Addenbrooke's hospitals.

He was a caring and hard-working physician, teaching medical students and training generations of cardiologists. He conducted original research establishing the diagnosis of sarcoid heart disease, lectured widely, published numerous papers and became a world authority on the disease. Dr Fleming was born in Scotland, growing up and studying medicine in New Zealand, gaining distinctions in pharmacology and therapeutics and the New Zealand Medical Travelling Scholarship.

He developed tuberculosis soon after qualification, spent two years in sanatoria and told that a clinical career was impossible. He refused to accept this, had surgery and after working in London, Wales and Sydney came to Papworth Hospital founding the Cardiac Unit and bringing cardiology to East Anglia. He was a Cambridge University examiner in medicine and pharmacology; in 1969 he was elected a Fellow of Darwin College.