b.1 August 1926 d.1 January 2015
CBE(1991) BSc Lond(1947) MB BS(1950) MRCP(1954) PhD(1956) FRCP(1966) Hon FACP(1982) Hon DSc Southampton(1994)
John Bernard Lloyd Howell, known as ‘Jack’, was the foundation professor of medicine at the University of Southampton and a pioneering asthma researcher. He was born in Swansea, the son of David John Howell, an architect, and Hilda Mary Howell née Hill, the daughter of a building contractor. He was educated at Swansea Grammar School and then studied medicine at Middlesex Hospital Medical School. He gained a BSc degree in 1947 and qualified with the MB BS in 1950.
He held house posts at Middlesex Hospital and was a lecturer in physiological medicine there. While at the Middlesex, he held an Eli Lilly travelling fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, USA (from 1957 to 1958). In 1960 he became a senior lecturer in medicine at the University of Manchester and an honorary consultant physician at the Royal Infirmary.
In 1969 Howell was appointed as professor of medicine at Southampton University, with the remit of establishing a medical school there. The first students were enrolled in 1971, studying a new style of curriculum based on the one which Howell’s research colleague, Moran Campbell [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.95], had introduced at the McMaster Medical School in Ontario, Canada. This approach included early contact with patients, integrated teaching and clinical attachments for fifth year students, innovations which were later adopted as standard practice in UK medical schools.
Howell’s own research focused on the physiology of the respiratory system, particularly breathlessness. He invented several experimental methods, including the Campbell and Howell technique for estimating arterial carbon dioxide, and new techniques for assessing the strength of the diaphragm. He carried out some of the earliest studies on hyperventilation syndrome and, in the late 1960s, led the first clinical trials of the drug sodium cromoglicate (Intal), which became a major treatment for asthma in the years before inhaled corticosteroids were widely adopted. At Southampton, he established a world-class pulmonary research group, which included Graham Stirling, Richard Godfrey, Anne Tattersfield and Stephen Holgate.
Howell was dean of medicine at Southampton (1978 to 1983), chairman of Southampton District Health Authority (1983 to 1998), president of the British Medical Association (1989 to 1990) and president of the British Thoracic Society (1998 to 1999). He was awarded a CBE in 1991.
Howell married Heather Joan Rolfe in 1952. They had two sons, Peter and David, and a daughter, Gillian, who all survived him.
[University of Southampton SUSSED News Obituary: Professor Jack Howell CBE www.southampton.ac.uk/blog/sussed-news/2015/01/12/obituary-professor-jack-howell-cbe/ – accessed 23 January 2017; BMJ 2015 350 1185 www.bmj.com/bmj/section-pdf/895457?path=/bmj/350/8006/Obituaries.full.pdf – accessed 23 January 2017; BMJ 1969 5659 (2) 773]
(Volume XII, page web)
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