Obituary: Dr Martin Lees

BORN: 24 April, 1935, in Saltcoats, Ayrshire. Died: 22 June, 2015, in Peebles, aged 80.

Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion. Picture: Contributed

Martin Lees was born in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, and attended Aberdeen Grammar School.

Although he considered a career as a professional pianist, he entered Aberdeen Medical School, from which he graduated in 1958. He subsequently did house jobs in combined adult and paediatric medicine, but his choice of career was influenced most strongly by Sir Dugald Baird, Professor of obstetrics and gynaecology in Aberdeen.

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Dr Lees then completed a year of surgical training in the North Middlesex Hospital, London, following which he worked for Professor Robert Keller in the University of Edinburgh.

Martin distinguished himself in research in the Department of Medicine, and in 1971 was awarded a Doctorate of Medicine for his original work on cardiovascular dynamics during pregnancy. He subsequently collaborated with Professor Forester Cockburn, studying hypertension in sheep in order to understand the causes of high blood pressure during human pregnancy.

Martin progressed rapidly to become one of the most admired clinical obstetricians in the United Kingdom. He served as a distinguished consultant for more than 30 years in the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, Edinburgh. Everyone who worked alongside him remembers his calmness, even during the most stressful moments.

Dr Lees collaborated very closely with Professor David Baird in the University of Edinburgh, and eventually he led the Infertility Service of the Royal Infirmary.

It was no surprise when he was elected president of the Edinburgh Obstetric Society. Martin Lees had a profound respect for the senior lawyers of the land, and for more than 20 years sat on the Council of the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland.

Dr Lees was a man of vision. He stimulated the formation of an expert panel, chaired by Ms Lorna Smith, which, after exhaustive consultation, recommended to Lothian Health Board that perinatal services in Edinburgh be centred on one large site, with instant availability of the most up-to-date facilities for mothers and babies.

As a consequence of this, many families have had their lives enhanced by markedly improved clinical care.

Martin Lees was a deeply committed teacher and mentor. Not only did he take a close interest in the welfare of his trainees, he provided a valuable pastoral role to everyone in need, no matter their role in the hospital.

As social convenor of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1998 to 2004, Martin provided a welcome for all Fellows and visitors from around the world. In addition, he founded a series of lectures in the college which encouraged senior school pupils to learn about the profession, and there is no doubt this caused many to choose medicine as their future career.

Martin’s interests were wide-ranging. He loved Delius and Mozart, and more recently would revel in the dazzling performances of the John Wilson Orchestra in the Usher Hall.

He was very knowledgeable about contemporary art, and included Sir Robin Philipson and Victoria Crowe among his friends.

Martin was fascinated by history and was key to organising the International Sesquicentenary Celebrations for Sir James Young Simpson in Edinburgh in 1997.

He enjoyed politics, and praised the integrity of a small number of politicians of one particular party. While he enjoyed tennis and golf, Martin liked nothing better than to be shouting for Scotland at Murrayfield. He had an enormous sense of fun and adored sharing amusing anecdotes with colleagues and friends alike. His love of KitKats, chocolate florentines and ginger beer was legendary.

Martin Lees was a humble man who treated all his friends with affection and admiration. A new generation of consultants now practise and teach obstetrics, all of whom are profoundly influenced by his example.

No-one could carry out a Kielland forceps delivery like he could, but many of his pupils continue to aspire to match his expertise.

Martin was happily married to Maureen for 52 years, and she cared for him throughout his last years of illness. He is also survived by a brother, Gordon, a niece, Clare and a nephew, Timothy.