Lives of the fellows

Brian Michael Kennelly

b.8 August 1935 d.27 February 2015
MB ChB Cape Town PhD Edin FRCP Edin FACC FACP FRCP(1981)

Brian M Kennelly was a cardiologist at Hoag Hospital, Newport Beach, California, USA. He was born in East London, South Africa, the son of Michael Ferdinand Edward Kennelly, a banker, and raised in Cape Town. He attended medical school at the University of Cape Town, where his years of medical training were among the most exciting of his life.

He was an intern at Groote Schuur Hospital from 1959 to 1960, and then he travelled to the UK as a Commonwealth Scholar in the department of medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Edinburgh University. He also carried out locum sessions at several London hospitals and spent three months at a hospital in Copenhagen. While in Edinburgh he met and married Fiona Kynoch, in 1963.

Brian and Fiona moved back to Cape Town, where Brian began working as a medical resident at Groote Schuur and Somerset hospitals. He later became a lecturer, senior lecturer and associate professor of medicine at the University of Cape Town. It was an exciting time in the field of cardiology at Groote Schuur. Christiaan Barnard, whom Brian had interned for, performed the first human heart transplant. Also, Groote Schuur became one of the first hospitals to allow partial racial integration of the medical and nursing staff.

Brian had a great passion for medical research and wrote many articles in this period. Two highlights of his career were a five-month sabbatical in Amsterdam, which had a world renowned cardiac electrophysiology programme, and a two-week stint with the Harvard Kalahari Expedition in the Kalahari Desert, studying the cardiovascular status of an isolated tribe of !Kung bushmen.

In 1978, after having four children and living in an area with increasing racial unrest, Brian and Fiona decided to move to the United States, where they believed their family would find safety and more opportunities. Brian accepted a position as an assistant professor (and subsequently professor of medicine) at the University of Kentucky, Louisville. Unfortunately, the climate in Kentucky was hot and humid and far different from the breezy coastal climate Brian was used to in Cape Town. He longed to return to the coast and decided to move his family to California and start his own private medical practice. Brian practised cardiology and electrophysiology at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach for 18 years and continued to participate in medical research studies. Here Brian’s patients and colleagues knew him as an experienced and respected doctor and researcher who was exceptional in the care of his patients. After retiring in 1998, Brian built a home with his wife on six acres in San Diego County.

During his retirement, Brian continued to stay busy by keeping up to date with medical research and taking courses in Spanish, art and music at a local community college. His favourite place was his property, where he planted an extensive flower garden, fruit orchard, rose garden and also a vineyard. He added several pastures for Fiona’s horses and adopted several beloved pets. He and Fiona enjoyed having their grandchildren to stay and celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary in November 2014.

Brian was diagnosed with lung cancer around the same time and passed away at his home. He was survived by his wife, children (Brian, Fiona Mandy, Scott and Kirsty), and seven grandchildren.

Fiona Kennelly

(Volume XII, page web)

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