Lives of the fellows

Arthur Colville Kennedy

b.23 October 1922 d.30 December 2009
CBE MB ChB Glasg(1945) FRFPS Glasg(1949) MRCP Edin(1951) MD(1956) FRCP Edin(1960) MRCP Glasg(1962) FRCP Glasg(1964) MRCP(1972) FRCP(1977) FRSE(1984) Hon FACP(1987) FRCPI(1988) Hon FRACP(1988)

As Muirhead professor of medicine at Glasgow, Arthur Kennedy, widely known as ‘ACK’, was a gifted clinician and teacher, and a highly respected clinical academic and administrator. A pioneer of renal dialysis, he made great contributions to the advancement of renal medicine internationally and to renal services in the West of Scotland.

Born the third of five sons of Thomas and Johanna Kennedy, ACK was educated at Whitehill School in Glasgow. After studying medicine at Glasgow University, he completed National Service with the RAF (he was particularly proud that he had helped to build the runway on Barra). He then undertook a series of training posts in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. His initial specialty interest was in haematology, but in 1958 a generous bequest by Arthur Jacobs, senior urologist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, enabled the purchase of a rotating drum artificial kidney machine of French manufacture. ACK became interested in this and was appointed senior lecturer in medicine and leader of the dialysis team in 1959.

Initially the work of the renal unit was in acute renal failure, and ACK was regularly to be seen delivering the out of hours care which rapidly reduced the mortality in acute renal failure from almost 100 per cent to around 30 per cent. His unit had an early research interest in dialysis disequilibrium and developed effective management for it. Over the next 20 years, ACK expanded the research and services of the unit to other areas such as chronic renal failure and renovascular disease. ACK was astute at recognising promising young doctors and in supporting them through their training. Nephrologists trained by him are to be found in many hospitals in the UK and throughout the world. His eminence in renal medicine was recognised by his presidency of the European Dialysis and Transplant Association from 1972 to 1975. In 1969 he was awarded a personal chair by the University of Glasgow and in 1978 he was appointed to the Muirhead chair of medicine.

Arthur Kennedy was a gifted teacher and physician. His opinion was widely sought in difficult cases. His notes, written in a characteristic confident and clear hand, were usually brief but identified the core of the problem. He recognised early on the importance of the multi-disciplinary team and the areas of expertise which other members had to complement that of the physicians.

ACK had a considerable ability to see the ‘big picture’, while attending to details. This, combined with his quiet but articulate style, made him an effective committee member or chair. He was president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow from 1986 to 1988 and chair of the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) from 1987 to 1989. Following his retirement in 1988, he was a member of the General Medical Council from 1989 to 1992 and president of the British Medical Association from 1991 to 1992.

As an individual, Arthur was calm and courteous, but unswerving in his promotion of ethical values and of excellence in clinical practice. He demanded high standards of himself and expected the same from his staff.

He married Agnes (Nancy) Taylor in 1947 and they remained a devoted couple until his death. He is survived by Nancy, by his daughters Morag (Shearlaw) and Susan, a granddaughter and two great grandchildren. Nancy and Arthur’s son, Iain, a gifted artist, died at a young age.

James McKillop

[The Herald 22 January 2010]

(Volume XII, page web)

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