Lives of the fellows

Malcolm Bryce McIlroy

b.10 March 1921 d.25 October 2003
BA Cantab MB BCh MD MRCP(1945) FRCP(1968)

Malcolm McIlroy was a cardiologist and pulmonary physiologist based in California. He will be remembered by several generations of research fellows who made their way to the University of California's famed cardiovascular research institute in the heyday of its influence under the inspired leadership of the late Julius Comroe [Munk's Roll, Vol. VIII, p.105].

McIlroy was born in Stone, Staffordshire, where his father, Clarke, was a master draper. His mother, Jessie, was a farmer's daughter. He was educated at Campbell College, Belfast, and then went on to Cambridge and St Bartholomew's Hospital. At the National Heart Hospital he fell under the influence of the father of modern scientific cardiology, Paul Wood [Munk's Roll, Vol. V, p.456], and later became first assistant to Ronald Christie [Munk's Roll, Vol. VIII, p.86] on the medical unit at Barts. During the fifties, he was recruited to join the University of California San Francisco's (UCSF) fledgling cardiovascular research institute (at the instigation of Morris Sokolow).

McIlroy was a pioneer in the study of cardiac haemodynamics, and directed the cardiac catheterisation laboratory at UCSF for many years. Because of his background in pulmonary physiology (as a fellow of the Harvard School of Public Health, and later with Christie), he was well placed to become an early pioneer in studies of the pulmonary circulation. This was later to bear fruit at the cardiovascular research institute during seminal research into pulmonary problems of the newborn with Bill Tooley and John Clements.

His scientific work shows an astonishing range of interests, from the mechanical properties of the lung at post mortem, through early Doppler ultrasound studies of skin, aortic and pulmonary blood flow, to Raynaud's phenomenon, and (with Bill Keatinge) the cardiovascular responses to cold showers! He was an enthusiastic user of emerging technologies such as mass spectrometry and computer models in the study of human physiology. With Sokolow and Cheitlin, he co-authored a highly successful textbook Clinical cardiology (Los Altos, California, Lange Medical Publications) which was first published in 1977, ran to several editions and was translated into seven languages. It was notable in marrying clinical science with modern cardiology, but most importantly with sound common sense.

Perhaps his most lasting memorial will be as a tremendously influential mentor to generations of British physicians and cardiologists who made their way to the cardiovascular research institute, at a time when it rivalled the National Institutes of Health as a powerhouse of clever and productive physicians and scientists. He and his wife, Margaret (who survives him), were particularly supportive and helpful to all the British cardiologists (and their families) who came to San Francisco. Malcolm will be remembered not only for his scientific contributions, but also for his wonderful and somewhat cynical sense of humour, and for his interest in the larger things of life.

In 1972, Margaret and Malcolm purchased the Aquarius ranch on the northern bank of the Russian River, in Healdsburg, California, which he always referred to as his retirement project. They moved there after he retired in 1990. They converted the farm from prunes to vines, and devoted themselves to producing extremely good wine. Unfortunately, he developed Parkinsonism in the latter years of his life, but still retained a lively interest in his past fellows, in medicine, and in his vineyard. He and Margaret had five children; four of these and eight grandchildren survive him.

Peter Sleight

(Volume XI, page 366)

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