Lives of the fellows

Andrew Kenneth Burroughs

b.26 May 1953 d.15 March 2014
MB ChB Liverp(1976) MRCP(1978) FRCP(1991)

Andrew Burroughs was professor of hepatology and a consultant physician/hepatologist at the UCL Institute of Liver and Digestive Health, having previously worked for much of his career at the Sheila Sherlock Liver Centre, Royal Free Hospital, London.

Andy was born to an English father, Kenneth Douglas Burroughs, and an Italian mother, Vidia, who met at the end of the war in Italy. He was born in Kent, but the family quickly moved back to Rome, where his father, by nature a true English gentleman, worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization; and his mother, a lady of indomitable and fiery spirit and quick intelligence and wit, taught English and maths. Like his older brother, Luca, Andy went to the International School in Rome and then to boarding school at Kent College, Canterbury. It would, initially, take him 30 hours by train and boat to get home to Rome for the holidays. He went to Liverpool University Medical School, where his hard work and determination became evident, and he graduated in 1976 with many academic prizes.

After house jobs in Liverpool, he joined the Royal Free Hospital as a registrar in general medicine and gastroenterology to Sheila Sherlock [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.514], a pioneer of hepatology in Britain. In 1981 he became a lecturer working with Sheila Sherlock and Neil McIntyre. In 1988 he set up the liver transplant service at the Royal Free Hospital, with Keith Rolles, consultant surgeon. He was appointed as a consultant physician at the Royal Free Hospital in 1993, and in October 2002 was awarded the title of professor of hepatology by the Royal Free and University College School of Medicine.

His research output was prolific in most areas of hepatology, but particularly in portal hypertension, primary biliary cirrhosis and liver transplantation. He wrote more than 510 articles in peer review journals, as well as editorials, book chapters and books. He co-edited the 12th edition of Sheila Sherlock’s Diseases of the liver and biliary system (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). His knowledge of current research was so extensive and current that he could easily correct a paper waiting for dinner or indeed first thing in the morning in bed on waking!

He held important roles in international and national organisations; he was an elected member of council at the Royal College of Physicians and vice president for hepatology at the British Society of Gastroenterology.

He received several honours, including the Cavaliere Ufficiale dell’Ordine della Repubblica Italiana (the Knight Officer of the Order of the Italian Republic), conferred in 1989, the fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences, awarded in 2010, the Sir Arthur Hurst lecture of the British Society of Gastroenterology, given in 2013, the distinguished service awards of the British Association for the Study of the Liver and the European Association for the Study of the Liver, both awarded in 2013, and the distinguished service award of the International Liver Transplantation Society, given in 2014.

Most people would describe him as ‘a force of nature’, with an energetic and consistent concentration of thought. Ward rounds were conducted at top speed with a minimum of time wasted in between patients, leaving a trail of fellows and trainees behind him, chasing results and ordering tests, often spread over several floors of the Royal Free Hospital. He was, however, a careful and kind physician who felt deeply for his, often, very ill patients. In 2005 he collaborated with the BBC documentary ‘Life on the list’ that showed what life is like for people waiting for a transplant. He oversaw the publication of Thank you for life a collection of moving letters written from transplant recipients to anonymous donor families, published in 2010 by the Royal College of Physicians. After Andy died a number of touching poems were found in his home office written about his concerns for his patients.

He set up extensive possibilities for both British and foreign doctors to take advantage of the research and clinical learning at the Royal Free Hospital. Over 100 fellows from 17 nations spent a period ranging from three months up to three years under his tutorship. Apart from the research completed and the clinical experience gained, these fellows, on their return home, would develop their own departments of hepatology, so hugely improving standards throughout the world, but especially in Europe.

Being half Italian and half English, he was fluent in both languages. In England no one would think of him as Italian and likewise in Italy no one would regard him as English. Stepping off the airplane in Pescara, in his beloved Abruzzo, he would instantly adopt the manners and gestures of an Italian alpha male, reverting on his return to London to a more reserved English style. In the family beach resort of Pineto his overheated brain would calm down for three weeks of beach time, in which he luxuriated, with his family, who enjoyed the relaxed time with him. In 2006 he restored the Wesleyan church, which his grandfather had built in 1932, from its ruined state, in nearby Mutignano, a medieval stone village. It now enjoys views from its large terrace, of the Gran Sasso mountain over to the Adriatic sea, past vineyards and olive groves. He was also a frequent visitor to Montecatini in Tuscany.

His great hobby was stamp collecting (in vast numbers). He specialised in Machin stamps (the definitive series of stamps from the UK, named after the designer Arnold Machin), of which he had examples of every one published, but also Swedish, Czech and French art stamps. It was estimated that the rafters of the room in which they were kept were at serious risk of collapsing under the weight of the stamps, which would perhaps have been a first! At home the stamps were known affectionately as his ‘little square friends’. His other hobby was putting IKEA furniture together, usually successfully.

He is fondly remembered by his second wife, Clare Davey, who was a consultant ophthalmologist at the Royal Free, his daughters Natasha and Helena, and his son James, all of whom are Italophiles. He is also greatly missed by his friends, his patients, his many fellows and trainees, and his colleagues at the Royal Free.

Clare Davey

[UCL Medicine News Professor Andrew Burroughs 16 March 2014 – accessed 7 March 2016; Journal of Hepatology 2014 vol 61 pp187-8 – accessed 7 March 2016; BMJ 2014 349 5165 – accessed 7 March 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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