Celebrating the legacy of Theo Chalmers

Celebrating the legacy of Theo Chalmers

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    Dr Theo Chalmers (left). Members of Theo Chalmers' family at the naming ceremony of the Theo Chalmers Lecture Theatre (right).

Alumni give back to honour the impact and legacy of distinguished clinician and mentor Theo Chalmers.

Dr Theodore Chalmers was an exceptional clinician, teacher and leader of UK medicine who worked tirelessly to establish the Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine. 

Now his legacy to the University and his impact on students and colleagues have been honoured with the naming of a lecture theatre at the School of Clinical Medicine and a new annual student prize in his memory funded by alumni. 

During his distinguished medical career, Theo became renowned as an outstanding teacher and mentor. He is especially remembered for his support of medical students — guiding the careers of many. He also worked tirelessly to enable those less well-represented in the medical profession to benefit from Cambridge's teaching and training.

Theo arrived in Cambridge in 1962 to take up an appointment as a Consultant Physician to the United Cambridge Hospitals and East Anglian Regional Hospital board. He immersed himself in postgraduate clinical teaching sessions and was elected Fellow and Director of Medical Studies at St John’s College and Dean of the School of Clinical Research and Postgraduate Teaching in 1965.

He quickly recognised the potential for extending medical education and clinical research in Cambridge, which he believed could be best realised by establishing an undergraduate clinical medical school.

In 1975, after considerable work and effort, Theo successfully established the School of Clinical Medicine and was appointed its Foundation Dean — a post he held for four years. During his tenure as Dean, he was responsible for the establishment of a pioneering curriculum at the school, still the basis for its teaching now.

Theo has had a massive and lasting impact on countless previous and current medical students and the medical profession by extension.

Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor of Physic and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine

His death in August 1984 was a significant loss to many of his patients, colleagues and students. A group of alumni, who were taught by Theo during the 1970s, have set up a fund in his memory to honour his work and legacy. The Theo Chalmers Memorial Fund will make possible an annual prize to recognise Clinical School students who are engaged in improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity in the University and the wider community — values that Theo held dearly.

The generosity shown by many of his former students is a testament to Theo’s lasting legacy. Many have wanted to acknowledge the life-changing impact of Theo’s support. 

“It was a pleasure to make a contribution in honour of Theo, a great man, who gave me a second chance.”

— Mike Shooter (Clare College, 1963)

“I am very grateful to him for allowing me to realise my life-long ambition of qualifying in medicine. I remember him with great affection. The few early clinical students, of which I was one, had an unparalleled exposure to clinical medicine partly because we were so few and so we were able to obtain a wealth of experience which would not be possible now.”

— Jennie Treleaven (Murray Edwards College, 1968)

Speaking at the naming ceremony and official launch of the Theo Chalmers Memorial Fund Prize on 10 June, the Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Paul Wilkinson said: “This annual prize will ensure, along with this newly named lecture theatre, that Theo’s name remains known throughout the medical school and medical community and I am proud to launch it officially today.”

Support the Theo Chalmers Fund

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Gillian Best

Project Manager, Cambridge University Health Partners
University of Cambridge Development and Alumni Relations