Simon Newell, 1956-2016

Neonatal consultant was an ‘inspirational and gifted teacher’ at the University of Leeds

September 15, 2016
Obituary: Simon Newell, 1956-2016

A leading paediatrician who taught at the University of Leeds’ medical school has died at the age of 59.

Simon Newell, a neonatologist in the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, was killed in a cycling accident in the Lake District on 10 August.

As a senior consultant in the clinics of St James's University Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary, Dr Newell was involved with saving the lives of hundreds of babies born prematurely in the city of Leeds.

He also helped to train students and junior doctors as an honorary senior clinical lecturer at the University of Leeds  and won widespread acclaim for his teaching.

“He was an inspirational and gifted teacher, with a knack for a memorable or humorous anecdote or pithy one-liner to drive home a point or enliven a presentation,” recalled his friends and university colleagues, Jonathan Darling and Lawrence Miall.

“He once recounted how, as an undergraduate volunteer for a physiology experiment, he sat on the roof of the medical school in winter in his underwear until delirious with a core temperature of 32°C – he said that this gave him sympathy with babies who had therapeutic hypothermia years later,” they said.

Dr Newell won praise as the co-author of the popular paediatric textbook Lecture Notes: Paediatrics and for setting the qualifying examination for new paediatric consultants. He also published many scientific papers primarily in neonatal medicine, gastroenterology and medical education.

His daughter Penny Newell, a doctoral researcher in English at King's College London, described how her father's life was personally dedicated to education, inspiring not only his students but his family too.

"Whatever the subject, students would often feel he was confiding in them rather than teaching them," said Ms Newell, who teaches literary criticism and cultural studies at King's.

"His nature was as a gentle and unexpected man," she said, adding he "inspired hundreds of medical students to pursue careers in child health and paediatrics" as well as inspiring his wife Debra, a GP who went through medical school with Dr Newell, and his three children, who are engaged in the fields of medicine, law and academia.

"This natural aptitude for communicating with students as close companions will be sorely missed, in his professional life and in his close family, where he had only just begun to teach his one-year-old granddaughter to look at the world with his own sense of amazement," said Ms Newell.

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