Pearson, Dr Charles Andrew, OBE

Missionary doctor in China. He was born on 10 December 1921 in the Methodist hospital at Shaoyang, Hunan Province, China, founded by his missionary father Dr. George Howarth Pearson. Educated in England, he qualified as a doctor in Liverpool and returned to China in 1946 with a diploma in tropical medicine. In 1951, following the Communist take-over, he and his wife Jean had to make the difficult decision to leave and were redeployed by the MMS to Nigeria as medical superintendent of the Wesley Guild hospital at Ilesha. During his 23 years there his interest in leprosy treatment proved specially valuable, though he found himself also turning his hand to building and plumbing. When the first ever measles vaccine was tested there, his four children were among those included in the trials. Under his direction the hospital became known for its innovative and effective approach to both preventive and curative medicine. In co-operation with Save the Children an extensive village outreach programme was developed; and Nigerian doctors and nurses were brought into leadership positions. Following the Biafran war the hospital entered a difficult period, with government funding slashed and its future uncertain. In 1975 it became part of Ife University's teaching hospital complex and Pearson was appointed chief medical officer for the University of Ibadan's community health programme, training students in community health care and general practice. In 1983 he became director of training in general practice at the National Postgraduate Medical College in Lagos.

He received an OBE for his work at Ilesha and before leaving Nigeria in 1985 he and his wife were made honorary chiefs. During his retirement in Bury St. Edmunds he travelled widely as a consultant in GP training and won international renown as an advocate of the paramount importance of generalist doctors in promoting health, especially in Africa and China. On a return visit to China he was involved in setting up two world congresses on rural health and met former friends and colleagues who had survived the cultural revolution. He also wrote a textbook on Medical Administration for Front-Line Doctors. A local preacher for 48 years, the courage of his convictions made him a conscientious objector in the Second World War and underpinned half a century of humanitarian service. He died at Bury St. Edmunds on 7 November 1997.

His wife Jean (née Frost) (died 2010) was the daughter of the Rev. W.J. Paradine Frost and sister of Sir David Frost. Graduating from Liverpool University, she taught at a secondary modern school at Shefford, Beds., and then served as SCM travelling secretary. She then joined Andrew in China, where they were married. During their 33-year service in Nigeria she was closely associated with his work and also taught in the Girls' Grammar School in Ilesha. Both were made honorary chiefs in the communities of Ilesha, Igbo'Ora and Imesi, where they had worked. During their retirement years at Bury St. Edmunds she was actively involved with the local MHA, The Martins.

  • George H. Pearson, Get up and Go: the autobiography of a medical missionary (1968)
  • C. Andrew Pearson, Front Line Hospital: the story of Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesha, Nigeria (1996)
  • Times, 21 November 1997
  • Methodist Recorder, 4 December 1997; 24 June 2010