4th November 2011, Volume 124 Number 1345


Dr Toby Whitlock, clinical physiologist and medical leader, grew up in Wellington and attended Victoria University before undertaking his medical training in Dunedin.


In 1960 he relocated to Auckland for his 6th year and house surgeon years during which time he nurtured an interest in the new specialty of intensive care.

After a year in general practice in Mangakino to work off his Health Department bursary, he took up the position of the first intensive care registrar in Auckland.

There Toby developed an interest in instrumentation, with monitors, respirators and other gadgets becoming a significant part of his life.

Such was his interest that he interrupted his MRACP preparation to complete a postgraduate degree in Medical Engineering at Imperial College in London

After a crash course in respiratory physiology at Hammersmith Hospital, Toby returned to a temporary post as "Acting Physician in Clinical Physiology" at Green Lane Hospital with Dr Edward Harris. The position became permanent after he gained his FRACP in 1978.

Along with clinical work Toby devoted a substantial amount of time to very productive and rewarding cardiorespiratory research and implementation of the findings into clinical practice, working with Ed Harris, Eve Seelye, Brian Barratt-Boyes and others. His major contributions were in the fields of computerised instrumentation, pacemaking and statistics.

Toby was a tireless worker, a truly caring individual and also a leader. He accepted the role of as "Acting Medical Superintendent" for 3 months in 1987. His tenure extended to nearly 10 years until the position was disestablished. He served on many committees including the Green Lane Research and Educational Fund (which he chaired for 16 years), Auckland Hospital and Citizens Trust Board, and Auckland ethics committees.

Most regard Toby’s greatest contribution to medicine to have been the mentoring and support of others—colleagues, technologists and registrars to further their education and achieve their potential. He took great joy in seeing them advance in their careers. Through his encouragement and facilitation, many clinical tasks such as respiratory function testing, Holter monitoring, echocardiography and cardiac perfusion (all originally performed by doctors) became the domain of technologists.

Toby was a father figure for the staff of his beloved Physiology Department and he genuinely cared about each and every one of them. He had a talent for remembering details about individuals such as their birthday or where they came from. He also had a great wit and a sense of fun and was voted Man of the Year by Physiology Department staff many times, before being awarded the unprecedented “Man of the Year Forever” title.

Toby Whitlock loved life and loved his family. He is survived by Valerie, his wife of 52 years, 3 sons, a daughter and 9 grandchildren

Peter Ruygrok (Consultant Cardiologist, Auckland City Hospital) wrote this obituary.