On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.99 n.12 Cape Town Dec. 2009
Lionel Stein (26/10/1918 - 17/08/2008)
Professor GR Keeton
Lionel Stein, a dedicated Cape Town physician, was born in 1918 during the great flu epidemic in the aftermath of World War I. He attended SACS, matriculating in 1934. At the age of 16 he entered the University of Cape Town, and received his BSc degree in 1937. He had a distinguished undergraduate career with class medals in anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology en route to his MB ChB, achieved with 2nd class honours in 1942.
From 1943 he served for 3 years in the South African and British armies as a captain in the medical corps. This position in the army of occupation took him to Italy and later Vienna.
After the war he spent some years in the UK and continued his distinguished medical career, acquiring the MRCP London and Edinburgh and in later years was elected to fellowships of both colleges. In 1987 he was further honoured with a distinguished physician award from UCT.
During his time in the UK he married his first wife Shirley Steinberg. In 1953 he returned to Cape Town to establish a private practice largely among the poorer members of society. He practised medicine in the 'old style', taking considerable time with his patients and treating many on a pro deo basis.
From 1955 to 1992 he was appointed initially to 3 sessions at Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) and later to 4 sessions shared between GSH and New Somerset Hospital. With his sessional attachment he played a major role in the teaching of students, interns and registrars. He showed his special and genuine interest in a person by introducing a system whereby all new student groups were invited to write a short personal autobiography. At this first contact he and I would outline our backgrounds and interests for the students. This personal interaction helped at times to alert us to students needing help or guidance.
Those of us who had the privilege and pleasure of knowing Dr Lionel Stein as physician, colleague and friend knew him as a person of quiet demeanour and gentle in his ways. His sharp mind and clinical acumen and wisdom gained by vast experience in his specialty were notable hallmarks of his service to his patients. He had the admirable quality of being able to reassure a patient without contradicting or concealing the true state of affairs. Indeed, his quiet manner and softly articulated words seemed to calm patients as well as family members.
Outside of medicine he read widely and enjoyed music history and nonsense rhymes. He had a strong sense of humour and delighted in a play on words. Shirley passed away in 1972 and he subsequently married Vivienne (née Schrire). In August 2005 he had a stroke which left him unable to read and struggling to express himself. He finally died at Highlands Home in Cape Town just 2 months shy of his 90th birthday.