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Rowan Adams

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright © 2000, The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Rowan Adams was killed on 3 May 2000 in a climbing accident on the Jungfrau glacier in Switzerland. The accident happened while she was practising safety manoeuvres prior to an expedition to cross from Grindelwald to Grimsel Pass with a small party of Scottish and Canadian skiers, headed by an experienced Canadian guide.

Rowan was born on 30 October 1944 in Carlisle but spent most of her early life in Canada, moving to Scotland in 1971. She came from a distinguished medical family that included an uncle, Donal Sheehan — Professor of Anatomy at New York University College of Medicine — and another uncle, Harold Sheehan (of Sheehan's syndrome) — Professor of Pathology at Liverpool. She attended the Central Collegiate Institute in Calgary, Alberta, where she was awarded the Viscount Bennett Scholarship as best all-round student in Alberta. She then went to McGill University in Montreal as a McGill scholar, where she was particularly proud to be ‘top gentile’ in her final medical exams. She received a BSc in psychology and genetics, and MD.CM at McGill. She then trained at Ottawa Civic Hospital and in dermatology at Vancouver General Hospital. In Scotland she worked as a dermatologist at Dundee Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, Stobhill General Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Belvedere Hospital, Glasgow. She was elected MRCP in 1981 and in 1986 MRCPsych. She was appointed a consultant psychiatrist in Monklands Hospital before becoming a consultant psychiatrist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in 1995.

Rowan was a committed doctor who always thought of her patients' interests first. She was dedicated to her work, and passionate and strong-minded about services. She was very kind, and her combination of care and attention to detail encouraged many trainee psychiatrists and medical students in the Royal Edinburgh scheme. She was heavily involved in the enhancement of the home and community care team, which had started the year before her appointment, and in developing a primary care liaison team with general practitioners in the South-East of Edinburgh. In this work, again her commitment to high quality care and a patient orientated service shone through. She was an examiner and college tutor for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and a national panellist for the appointment of consultant psychiatrists.

Rowan was always busy outside psychiatry. She took a great interest in cultural affairs, often being seen at the Traverse Theatre, the Queen's Hall and the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Her love of sports was also well known. She was an expert downhill and cross-country skier. She enjoyed cycling and swimming and made many canoe trips in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. She climbed and skied extensively in the Rockies, Selkirks, Alps, New England, Scotland, Norway, Spain and Greece. She was well read, with a detailed knowledge of Victorian women writers.

Rowan was a first class doctor, mother and wife, and will be greatly missed. She is survived by her parents Margaret Hopwood and John Hopwood, QC of Calgary; her husband Gordon Adams, an economist, whom she met at McGill and married in May 1967; and by her two children Ewan (26), an educational researcher at Bristol University, and Jean (22), a medical student at the University of Newcastle.

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