Lives of the fellows

Allan St John Dixon

b.19 August 1921 d.19 June 2014
OBE(1990) MB BS Lond(1945) LMSSA(1945) MD(1948) MRCP(1948) FRCP(1968)

Allan St John Dixon was a consultant rheumatologist at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath. He was born in London, the son of Percival St John Dixon, a mining engineer, and Florence Dixon née Lidstone. He was educated at Bedales School on a violin scholarship, and studied physics and organic chemistry at Regent Street Polytechnic. He then went to Chelsea Polytechnic, before winning a place at Guy’s Hospital Medical School. He qualified MB BS in 1945.

He joined the British Red Cross and was sent to China to care for Japanese prisoners of war, however, the Second World War came to an end while he was in transit and he was redirected to a general hospital in Shanghai. He moved on to New Zealand, to the Hutt Hospital, near Wellington.

He returned to the UK, to a post at Hammersmith Hospital, London. He then went to the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Taplow, where he was a research registrar. Here he worked with some of the key figures in rheumatology, including Eric Bywaters [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.86], Barbra Ansell [Munk’s Roll, Vol. XI, p.23] and Philip Wood.

Dixon’s next move was to the USA, to Massachusetts General Hospital. He returned to the UK in 1954 and, from 1955 to 1957, was a lecturer at Manchester University. He then went back to Hammersmith, as a lecturer at the Postgraduate Medical School, a post he held until 1961.

His first consultant post, to which he was appointed in 1962, was at St Stephen’s and St Mary Abbot’s hospitals in London. In 1962 he was also a visiting professor in Buffalo, New York. Four years later, he was invited to join George Kersley [Munk’s Roll Vol.IX, p.292] at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, which had been badly damaged in bombing raids during the Second World War. Dixon and his colleagues spent the next 20 years establishing the reputation of the hospital.

He had a broad range of clinical interests, including ankylosing spondylitis, for which he developed a special treatment programme, arthritis and osteoporosis. He was particularly interested in the training of junior doctors, from Britain and abroad. The hospital developed strong links with the University of Bath, and Dixon helped establish the Bath Institute for Rheumatic Diseases and the Research Institute for the Care of Elderly People within the university.

In 1970s, while he was an adviser to the Department of Health and Social Security, he helped gain funding for a network of rehabilitation centres around the UK, to improve provision of rehabilitation and to undertake research on the best forms of treatment.

Dixon helped establish the Medical Research and Rehabilitation Trust (later named Remedi), which raises funds for research, particularly to help people with long-term conditions. He was also instrumental in founding the National Osteoporosis Society and the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society.

He retired to Cornwall, but remained on many committees and kept his medical knowledge up-to-date. He wrote a novel and a history of rheumatology (Rheumatology in the United Kingdom: 50 years of progress 2000), worked in his garden and restored furniture.

In 1951 he married Sheila (née Brown), the daughter of an engineer. They had a son (Steven), a daughter (Nadia) and four grandchildren.

RCP editor

[Bath Chronicle 22 August 2014 www.bathchronicle.co.uk/Obituary-medical-pioneer-Dr-Allan-St-John-Dixon/story-22795345-detail/story.html – accessed 15 March 2016; Conway Hall Obituary: Allan St John Dixon (1922-2014) http://conwayhall.org.uk/ethicalrecord/obituary-allan-st-john-dixon-1922-2014/ – accessed 15 March 2016; BMJ 2015 351 3920 www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h3920 – accessed 15 March 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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