Dr Kurt Schapira

Multi-faceted psy­chi­a­trist who re­searched the emo­tional ef­fects of mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis on suf­fer­ers and car­ers

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - Dr Kurt Schapira: born De­cem­ber 2, 1928. Died Novem­ber 20, 2016

AR­RIV­ING ALONE at Liver­pool Street Sta­tion in 1939 via Kin­der­trans­port, 11-year-old Kurt Schapira sobbed through the night. He and his sis­ter, who ar­rived separately, lost most of their fam­ily in the Holo­caust.

Schapira, who has died aged 87, rose to be­come an em­i­nent neu­rol­o­gist, whose re­search into mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis made an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to con­tem­po­rary knowl­edge of the dis­ease. He was born in Vi­enna to Or­tho­dox par­ents Rosa and Isaac. His mother died when Kurt was only seven and shortly af­ter, Isaac was ar­rested and sent first to Dachau, then Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­tion camps.

Kurt and his older sis­ter Eu­ge­nie (Nelly) went to live with their ma­ter­nal aunt and un­cle in Ber­lin. Their fa­ther, through con­nec­tions from his whole­sale linen busi­ness was sent a visa for Shang­hai, via Lon­don, where he re­mained.

A mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion had re­sulted in the young Kurt spend­ing his first night alone in Eng­land’s Dover­court Hol­i­day Camp, but he was re­united with his fa­ther the fol­low­ing day. The fam­ily then moved into rented ac­com­mo­da­tion in Lon­don’s Stam­ford Hill.

Kurt was ed­u­cated at Has­monean Gram­mar School, which evac­u­ated to Sh­ef­ford, in Bed­ford­shire, in 1944. He proved an ex­cel­lent stu­dent, guided by Rab­bis Dr Solomon Schon­feld and Alex Spitzer. Un­like his fel­low stu­dents, who mainly chose the rab­binate, Kurt opted to study medicine.

Gain­ing a place in 1947 at New­cas­tle upon Tyne Med­i­cal School, af­fil­i­ated then to Durham Univer­sity, he qual­i­fied as Bach­e­lor of Medicine and Bach­e­lor of Surgery, later re­ceiv­ing an MD, and fel­low­ships from the Royal Col­lege of Psy­chi­a­trists. He stud­ied pae­di­atrics at The Flem­ing Memo­rial Hospi­tal for Sick Chil­dren and adult medicine at Dry­burn Hospi­tal, Durham.

Fol­low­ing two years in the Royal Army Med­i­cal Corps, he re­turned to the Royal Vic­to­ria In­fir­mary as a Se­nior House of­fi­cer in General Medicine with Dr Alan Ol­givie. In 1956, he was re­cruited by the em­i­nent New­cas­tle neu­rol­o­gist Dr Henry Miller to be­come a Re­search Fel­low. In 1958, Schapira be­gan re­view­ing 1,156 suf­fer­ers of mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis in Northum­ber­land and Durham, later co-pub­lish­ing 16 sci­en­tific ar­ti­cles on the clin­i­cal as­pects of MS from ma­te­rial gar­nered between 1959 and 1967.

Some of th­ese are ref­er­enced as an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to con­tem­po­rary knowl­edge of MS. He based his MD th­e­sis on this re­search.

In 1970, Schapira be­came se­nior lec­turer at the Univer­sity Depart­ment of Psy­chi­a­try at the RVI. His in­ter­est in psy­chol­ogy in­spired fur­ther re­search on anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion and he con­tin­ued his own re­search into sui­cide and at­tempted sui­cide, con­tribut­ing to med­i­cal ar­ti­cles on anorexia ner­vosa, and lec­tur­ing in the UK and abroad.

He was even­tu­ally ap­pointed Pres­i­dent of the psy­chi­a­try sec­tion at the Royal So­ci­ety of Medicine and, in 1982, be­came Pres­i­dent of the North of Eng­land Medico-Le­gal So­ci­ety.

Un­til 1989, he was Con­sul­tant Psy­chi­a­trist to New­cas­tle Health Au­thor­ity. His last pub­lished col­lab­o­ra­tive work, with his younger son, psy­chother­a­pist Martin, was pub­lished in June 2016.

He was pre­sented to Prince Charles at a Kin­der­trans­port re­cep­tion and on De­cem­ber, 19, 1965 he mar­ried Eva Loble whose first hus­band Ron­nie had died leav­ing her with two chil­dren Susie and Stephen.

Their son Martin born was born on March 14, 1967.

An avun­cu­lar and jovial man Kurt was a pop­u­lar mem­ber of New­cas­tle’s re­li­gious and sec­u­lar com­mu­ni­ties. He is sur­vived by Eva, their chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, great grand­chil­dren, his sis­ter Nelly and ex­tended fam­ily., FAGA SPEKER

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