Paul Robert Swyer was director of the division of perinatal medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, and a professor in the department of paediatrics, University of Toronto. He was born in London, UK, the only child of Robert Swyer, a physician, and Kathleen Swyer née Rodwell. After attending Bedford School, he started his studies at Cambridge University in 1938. He gained his BA in 1940 and went on to the Middlesex Hospital Medical School in London, qualifying in 1943.
As a newly-minted doctor, he was enrolled in the RAMC and landed in Dieppe, France in September 1944. Paul was a medical officer in a frontline field ambulance, clearing stations with the advancing Allied troops in the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, known as the Polar Bear Division. These troops fought their way across France, Belgium, Holland and, finally, into Germany. His division became part of the First Canadian Army towards the end of 1944. During the grim winter of 1945 Paul forgot these hardships having met the love of his life, Fernande Hélène Rumbaut, at a liberation ball in Belgium in November 1944. They were married in June 1947.
After the war, Paul held junior posts at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, the Middlesex and Bromptom hospitals, and then specialised in paediatrics, first training in south Warwickshire and then at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. He was a senior registrar in paediatrics in Birmingham from 1952 to July 1953 and then emigrated to Canada, where he joined the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) in Toronto. Here he set up the first intensive care unit for sick newborns in 1961.
Paul’s specialty became intravenous nutrition and assisted ventilation in the high-risk infant, on which subject he lectured extensively in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australasia.
In 1971, Paul was instrumental in setting up the first meeting of the International Perinatal Collegium, along with Alvar Swensson, John Stetson and Jerry Lucey, in Stora Kornö in Sweden. Meetings of the Collegium have continued every two years, alternating between Europe and North America.
During the 1970s, the 7G unit at HSC became a model upon which worldwide neonatal intensive care units were developed. Paul became a full professor at the University of Toronto in 1974. Paul gained his Cambridge MD degree in 1984 and was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Lausanne, also in 1984.
Paul influenced the international scene further through his training of many fellows from abroad, and also spent time in China with the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1988. Numerous neonatology fellows have been influenced by his knowledge and enthusiasm and have learnt from his clinical acumen. Paul retired from HSC in 1986, but continued to play an active role as one of the founders of the International Perinatal Collegium, and in committee work for the WHO and for the Ontario Provincial Ministry of Health.
In retirement, Paul maintained a full and complete life, playing tennis regularly until his 90th birthday and participating in all meetings of his beloved Collegium, presenting papers on his early experiences in the field.
Paul was survived by his beloved wife Fernande, their two daughters, Sandra and Michèle, their grandchildren, Jonathan, Elijah, Jessica, Jeremy and Gregory, as well as three great grandchildren.
Alan W Dennis
[The Globe and Mail 17 July 2019 www.legacy.com/obituaries/theglobeandmail/obituary.aspx?n=paul-robert-swyer&pid=193383306&fhid=9911 – accessed 12 November 2019]