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