Lives of the fellows

Douglas Langton Woolf

b.20 September 1919 d.15 October 2000
OBE(1998) MRCS LRCP(1945) DPhysMed(1950) MRCP(1978) FRCP(1984)

Douglas Langton Woolf was a consultant rheumatologist, serving widely separate communities in north London.

He was first and foremost a thorough and caring physician, who spared no effort for his patients. His colleagues (medical and non-medical, senior and junior, in hospital and in the wider community) admired and respected him and sought to emulate his qualities.

He was always kind to people, and went out of his way to assist them with advice and encouragement, or to help advance their careers, not least with young doctors on the threshold of their career.

Some would say that his greatest legacy to rheumatology was his editorship of the journal known today as Rheumatology (in his day it was called sequentially, the Annals of Physical Medicine, Rheumatology & Physical Medicine, and Rheumatology & Rehabilitation). He nurtured it with tender loving care for 14 years, between 1969 and 1983, transforming it in the process from what was a little known house journal and laying the seeds for it to become one of the world's leading rheumatology journals.

He brought his influence to bear in many varied activities outside his hospital work - in Arthritis Care, the Hunterian Society, the Arthritis Research Campaign and Friends of the London Hospital, to mention a few.

Well into his retirement, he took on several additional challenges and responsibilities. These included his membership of the attendance allowance board at the Department of Social Security, the post of medical director of the Horder Centre for Arthritis (which he took on at a time of crisis), and his chairmanship of Arthritis Care, a major national charity.

He received numerous prestigious honours. He was elected president of the Hunterian Society. He was an honorary Fellow of the Society. These honours testify to the very high esteem in which he was held by his peers. So it was with the British Society for Rheumatology who made him an honorary member - another rare distinction. But it was his OBE, received in 1998, that was his crowning glory. It was certainly the honour which gave him the greatest satisfaction.

He was immensely proud of his two children, Valerie and Anthony, and his grandchildren. Although he was not a religious man, he remained true to his roots and followed in his father's footsteps into medicine at the London Hospital, a wise move; the tradition which has been carried on by Anthony and is being embarked on in a fourth generation.

His friends were always made to feel at home in his home; and were made to feel part of his family, as he became a part of theirs. Douglas and his wife Kay were a devoted couple - a perfect match, great parents and grandparents. Douglas bore the immense loss of Kay with great dignity and courage.

He had a rare combination of fine qualities, with a sense of cheerfulness, humour and fun, and an instinctive concern for other people and their feelings. He was a gentleman in all senses of the word, a man of honour, of high moral rectitude, someone you could always trust.

Rodney Grahame

[Brit.med.J., 321,1416.]

(Volume XI, page 640)

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