Lives of the fellows

Andrew James Johnson

b.1 October 1945 d.14 January 2015
MB BCh Wales(1969) MRCP(1973) FRCP(1991)

Andrew (‘Andy’) Johnson was an outstanding and highly regarded consultant in respiratory medicine at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. He was born in Cardiff and received his schooling and medical training there. His father, Albert James Johnson, was a farmer; his mother, Marion Lucie Johnson, was a clerk. He attended Cardiff High School, leaving in 1964 to take a place at the Welsh National School Of Medicine, from where he graduated with distinctions in social medicine and public health.

Having completed his junior medical posts in Cardiff Royal Infirmary, Sully, Llandough and Morriston hospitals, he started his specialist training at the Brompton Hospital in London in 1973 and in 1975 became a clinical lecturer in pharmacology there and participated in research on asthma. A senior registrar rotation in Edinburgh from 1977 until 1983 completed his training in general and respiratory medicine. During his appointment in Edinburgh he spent a year as George Saxton research fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver studying occupational lung disease.

In 1983 he was appointed as a consultant physician with a special interest in respiratory disease at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, where he remained until his formal retirement in 2010, although he continued to work part time in medical education at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ until June 2014.

During his time at Kent and Canterbury Hospital he worked tirelessly to develop and expand the respiratory medicine department, introducing many new techniques, as well as expanding the facilities and modernising equipment within the department.

He undertook various district, regional and national management advisory posts and lead several research projects, resulting in over 30 original articles in peer-reviewed journals, particularly on the diagnosis and treatment of asthma. He was the British Thoracic Society (BTS) representative on the tuberculosis policy implementation group for the Department of Health, and was secretary to the research committee of the British Thoracic Society from 1986 to 1988.

As chairman of the Heaf gun subcommittee he was involved in the design of a single use head for the Heaf gun to prevent cross infection, and subsequently a single use device that is now the recommended standard.

He was involved in panels to study asthma deaths, refine tuberculosis tests, safety of talc pleurodesis, as well as recommendations on long-term domiciliary oxygen, sleep laboratories and guidelines on asthma management. He was elected a council member of the BTS at a time of great structural change within the Society, served as an executive member of the manpower and resources committee and became a regional representative, representing the British Thoracic Society’s interests, collating information and counselling junior staff.

For many years he was an examiner for the membership of the Royal College of Physicians and organised that examination in Canterbury for three years.

Andy was an outstanding teacher and mentor with a passionate interest in medical education. He was committed to sharing his knowledge and experience, inspiring students to follow in his footsteps. At Kent and Canterbury Hospital he was sometime clinical tutor, director of medical education and undergraduate sub dean of King’s College, London, where he was responsible for supervising the education of scores of students undergoing their medical training in Canterbury. He was also director of medical education in Canterbury for the St George’s University School of Medicine in Granada, which involved many trips to that island as well as examining both in the UK and America.

For his work in education he was awarded an honorary senior lectureship at King’s College, London. Having been a founding sub dean, he then took on the mantle of co-leading the visiting team travelling to all clinical teaching campuses as part of the quality management programme. Under his guidance the team expanded its function and established a more structured process. He was a tremendously wise, perceptive colleague, able to identify deficiencies without creating animosity. He has left an important legacy to the many students and faculty he supported.

Andy was a highly regarded and very approachable clinical colleague whose opinion was much valued. His gentle yet authoritative manner instilled confidence and hope. The respect of his patients was very well deserved because he treated all his patients with kindness, understanding and a professionalism which was a joy to behold.

Whilst working at the Brompton he recounted to a friend that by tradition in the doctors’ mess they were each given a bottle of beer with their meal. This was to reduce the risk of catching tuberculosis. (Those were the days!) This was a particularly happy time in his life and was where he met his wife Jean (née Mercer), a physiotherapist also working there. They married in 1976 and had four children (Sarah, Richard, Elizabeth and Suzannah), two of whom have followed him into medicine. He was a totally committed and dedicated family man and extremely proud of his children, and more recently his two beautiful grandchildren, Eliana and Sophie. Outside medicine he made time to involve himself in many local activities and thoroughly enjoyed community life.

Being Welsh, he was a passionate supporter of both Cardiff and the Welsh national rugby teams, particularly enjoying an animated post match analysis!

He greatly enjoyed his weekly fix of golf for the company of his friends, for shots that went straight and long, for banter on the course and clubhouse repartee. A reasonably competent golfer, he approached it with his usual calm and humour.

In his retirement he so valued spending more time with family and friends, pottering in his much-loved garden, and having more time to travel and pursue his hobbies. It was so sad and disappointing to have this cut short by an inoperable brain tumour. At his funeral the quire of Canterbury Cathedral was packed with family, friends, colleagues and patients – a testimony to a much-loved man.

Mark Downes
Stuart Field

[BMJ 2015 350 739 – accessed 13 September 2016; St George’s University White Coat Ceremony – accessed 13 September 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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