Lives of the fellows

John Smith Percy

b.8 August 1938 d.14 November 2001
MB BS Durham(1961) MD Newcastle(1966) MRCP(1966) FRCP(1979)

John Smith Percy was the first academic rheumatologist appointed to the University of Alberta, Canada, and was the founding director of the rheumatic disease unit. He was born in England, in South Shields, and educated at Durham University. John was always proud and passionate about his north of England heritage. His mother, Elsie Percy, once confided in me with some pride that John was a 'naughty boy' and he continued to display his roguish spirit throughout his life. As a young man, he enjoyed walking on the rugged hills of the South Shields area. He was an uncompromising rugby player and gave new meaning to the term 'social drinker'.

Professionally, John made considerable contributions to the field of rheumatology, particularly within Canada. At the University of Alberta he was the director of the rheumatic disease unit for a number of years, during which time it grew in stature. It was and still remains one of the leading rheumatic disease units in North America. He rapidly established training programmes at the undergraduate, postgraduate and subspecialty training levels and was actively involved in research.

John loved to teach and was a mentor to a number of trainees. His first trainee subsequently became the rheumatic disease unit director at the University of Calgary. Up until fairly recently every rheumatologist in Edmonton had trained with John. He also had a notable reputation in the training of foreign medical graduates, most notably from Australia, Thailand and Saudi Arabia, many of whom subsequently played a leading role in the development of rheumatology in their own countries.

John was a leading light in the Arthritis Society during one of its most formative periods and was an adviser and confident of Edward Dunlop, a notable president of the National Arthritis Society. John loved debate and would be uncompromising in his support of what he believed to be right. Most notably, he was an effective champion and advocate for patients with rheumatic diseases and over his years of practice treated many devoted and grateful patients.

Throughout his life John always had a project and was always making things. He was extremely well read in a wide variety of areas including the classics and he loved to play chess. He developed a passion for airplanes and flying which never left him. He was also fascinated by wartime history and in his later years was never happier than when walking around the battlefields of central Europe.

John was always a challenging friend and colleague and it was never boring to be in his company although often humbling to be the butt of his incisive wit. Nobody could be ambivalent about John and he would not have wanted it any other way.

A S Russell

[MediNet Feb 2002,Vol.1, no.3]

(Volume XI, page 446)

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