Lives of the fellows

Dennis McCord Boyle

b.14 August 1932 d.28 August 2014
MB BCh BAO Belf(1957) MD(1960) MRCP(1962) FRCP(1976) FRCPI(1991)

Dennis McCord Boyle was a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Victoria and Ulster hospitals, Belfast. He was born in Belfast, the son of William Henry Boyle, a teacher. He was educated at Portora Royal School, County Fermanagh, and at Queen’s University Belfast. His undergraduate medical distinctions included honours in anatomy, the Milroy medal in physiology and a Malcolm exhibition, Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast. He graduated MB BCh BAO in 1957.

He held appointments at the Royal Victoria Hospital and Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children from 1957 to 1960 and in 1963. He trained at the Hammersmith Hospital London from 1960 to 1962 and at the National Heart Hospital London between 1963 and 1965, before being appointed as a consultant cardiologist in 1965 at the Royal Victoria and Royal Maternity Hospital, Belfast, and at the Ulster Hospital.

Dennis Boyle was highly respected by medical students and junior doctors as an excellent clinical teacher. After observing the student examining a patient’s heart, he would ask ‘did you hear the reversed splitting of the second heart sound?’ His skills were honed in an era when the art of clinical diagnosis and auscultation was valued, rather than today’s investigational approach of ‘get me the echocardiography result!’

Early publications included comparison of medical and surgical treatment of mitral stenosis and mitral valvotomy in relation to pregnancy. He was solely responsible for all cardiac patients admitted to the Royal Maternity Hospital and published on heart disease in pregnancy.

At the Ulster Hospital, he started prehospital mobile coronary care in 1969 with Jack Barber, paralleling the pioneering model initiated for west Belfast by Frank Pantridge [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] in 1966. The ‘cardiac ambulance’ model enabled earlier access to the patient after acute myocardial infarction. Early defibrillation of patients in cardiac arrest and stabilisation of patients prior to transfer to the hospital coronary care unit improved prognosis. Published work included an emphasis on the early discharge of patients after myocardial infarction using coronary prognostic indices. Prehospital coronary care also facilitated early therapeutic intervention in an attempt to reduce the amount of myocardial damage. The introduction of thrombolytic drugs in the 1980s enabled early prehospital administration, a time-saving of one to two hours. He also researched the early administration of beta-blockers after myocardial infarction.

In spite of a busy clinical job with commitments in two hospitals and a one in two on-call rota, Dennis still found time to encourage research and publication. He would often disarm his cardiology colleague with ‘you will have seen the paper by…’ quoting the latest cardiology publication. He initiated a cardiac rehabilitation programme at the Ulster Hospital in 1975 and encouraged multidisciplinary team working in the cardiology department of the Ulster, by including cardiac physiologists, clinical pharmacists, physiotherapists, social workers, nursing and medical staff in the team.

Dennis was always the gentleman, empathic with his patients and highly respected by young doctors and cardiology colleagues throughout the UK and Ireland. The writer learned much from him as a teacher, clinician, researcher and team-leader, but especially as his colleague and friend over 15 years.

Dennis was elected to the fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1976 and of Ireland in 1991, and to the fellowship of the European Society of Cardiology in 1988. He was a member of the British Cardiac Society and the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland, and a past council member of both. He was president of the Irish Cardiac Society from 1982 to 1983 and president of the Irish Heart Foundation from 1997 to 2000 after his retirement from NHS practice. With his interest in coronary prevention, he had also held posts with the Health Promotion Agency of the Department of Health and Social Security and with the Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association.

To his family he was ‘a kind and brilliant physician and father who will be missed by all who knew him’. He was survived by Patricia (née Magahran), his devoted wife of 48 years, daughters Mary and Sarah, and sons William and Michael.

David Higginson

[BMJ 2014 349 6791 – accessed 25 March 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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