Lives of the fellows

Gabrielle Kingsley

b.2 October 1954 d.7 January 2016
BSc Bristol(1976) MB ChB(1979) MRCP(1982) T(M)(1991) FRCP(1994)

Gabrielle Kingsley (universally known as ‘Gay’) was a clinical rheumatologist in Lewisham and professor of clinical rheumatology at King’s College London. Her death occurred just when she had reached the very peak of her achievements. Her contributions to medicine spanned clinical rheumatology, postgraduate training, research and management.

Gay was born and brought up in Manchester, the oldest of three children of Roger James Kingsley, a chemical engineer, and Valerie Mary Marguerite Kingsley née Hanna. She trained at Bristol and completed several junior posts in the West Country. She moved to Guy’s Hospital in the 1980s. The rest of her career was spent in south east London.

Soon after moving to London, Gay decided to focus on rheumatology. She combined her clinical training with laboratory research. At the time there was growing interest in the role of T-cells in inflammatory arthritis. She worked with Gabriel Panayi and colleagues such as Costantino Pitzalis and Jerry Lanchbury in this cutting edge field. Her own research focused on the role of infection in inflammatory arthritis.

Her academic success led to her becoming a consultant and senior lecturer at Lewisham Hospital. This occurred when Lewisham Hospital was linked to Guy’s as a single institution. The hospitals subsequently demerged as part of the ever-changing organisation of London hospitals. Gay chose to remain at Lewisham. In the short-term this meant she became a single-handed rheumatologist. Over the years she gained new consultant colleagues as the specialty expanded and as other hospitals merged with Lewisham. By 2016 she was involved in an expanding department of six consultant rheumatologists and three trainees. Gay loved working at Lewisham, and her decision to remain there impacted on the rest of her career.

Over time many academics make the transition from laboratory to clinical research and trials. Gay gradually made this switch after she was appointed to a readership in rheumatology. It fitted in well with her consultant work. She was involved in many successful clinical studies. An example is the highly-quoted trial of methotrexate in psoriatic arthritis, which she led. It underlined the limited value of methotrexate in these patients. Her continuing academic success led to her promotion as professor of clinical rheumatology at King’s College London. Her key strengths as a researcher were her ideas, her ability to assess research impact and her focus on getting things done.

Gay enjoyed training junior doctors. For more than a decade she was responsible for rheumatology training in south London. She not only chaired the specialist training committee, but was also programme director for our rheumatology MSc. She was responsible for training a generation of local rheumatologists. Throughout her tenure she made certain clinicians received the best possible training. Although she never refrained from giving junior doctors frank advice about their progress, she always provided a measured and fair perspective.

With time Gay came to enjoy medical management in the broadest sense. She took on a range of roles for the British Society for Rheumatology. She spent many years as a member of its executive. She chaired the Heberden committee, which organises the annual meetings, and the external relations committee. She also spent five years as an associate editor of Rheumatology, the main British specialist journal.

The management roles Gay took on gradually grew into the central focus of her career. Medical strategy turned out to be one of her unique strengths. The culmination of her management career was becoming medical director of the newly-formed Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. She ensured her high standards and strategic vision benefitted all clinical disciplines across the trust. She was widely respected and supported throughout the local medical community.

Medicine consumed every hour Gay had. It was her great passion. She liked nothing better than writing papers or grants until late into the evening and at weekends. She could spend hours planning how to improve hospital services. She never wanted to retire.

She bore her final illness with great stoicism and dignity. She took great satisfaction in electing to be treated at Lewisham. She appreciated the high quality and compassion of care she received in the hospital she herself had contributed so much towards.

David L Scott
Louise Pollard
Sophia Steer
Peter Luce

[The British Society for Rheumatology Professor Gabrielle (Gay) Kingsley – Obituary – accessed 2 June 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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