Lives of the fellows

Stephen David Lawn

b.13 March 1966 d.23 September 2016
BMedSci Nottingham(1987) BM BS(1989) MRCP(1992) MD(2001) DTM&H(2004) Dip HIV Med(2004) FRCP(2012)

Stephen Lawn was a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a specialist in tuberculosis in patients with HIV. He was born in York, the youngest of three boys of Geoffrey and Rosemary Lawn. His father was an Anglican vicar. Lawn was educated at Doncaster Grammar School and then Lady Lumley’s Comprehensive School in Pickering, and went on to study medicine at the University of Nottingham. At the end of his first year at medical school he drove across the Sahara with a group of friends – a journey during the 1985 drought, which sparked a desire to make a difference in Africa. He gained a bachelor of medical sciences degree in 1987 and qualified BM BS in 1989, winning distinctions and several university prizes.

He was a house officer in Nottingham and Derby, and subsequently trained in general and respiratory medicine at Derbyshire Royal Infirmary. He then went to Ghana, as a lecturer in medicine at the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, and also ran the tuberculosis service. Here he saw his first patients with HIV and TB.

After four years in Ghana, he went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia on a Wellcome Trust fellowship, where he researched the pathogenesis of TB and HIV co-infection.

In 2001, he returned to the UK, where he worked as a specialist registrar in tropical medicine and infectious diseases at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, London. From 2002 to 2004 he was a specialist registrar on the clinical infection unit, St George’s Hospital, London. He then became a senior lecturer in infectious and tropical diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, an honorary consultant at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and an honorary research associate at the Desmond Tutu HIV centre, University of Cape Town. From June 2007, he was a reader at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, progressing to professor in August 2015. From July 2008, he was an honorary associate professor at the Desmond Tutu HIV centre.

From 2005 Lawn and his family were based in South Africa. Here he worked in townships, diagnosing patients with HIV and TB, and becoming involved in one of the first big trials of antiretroviral drugs in Africa. His research led to his involvement in the revision of guidelines for antiretroviral therapy in poor settings. Later he focused on ways of detecting TB in HIV patients and began working on a urine test, setting up the STAMP two-centre trial in South Africa and Malawi. During his career, he wrote more than 250 papers.

Outside medicine, he was a passionate runner. He was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014. Despite neurosurgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, he died two years later, at the age of 50. He was survived by his wife, Joy, a paediatrician and perinatal epidemiologist, whom he had met at Nottingham University, and their two children, Tim and Joanna. A memorial fund for TB and AIDS research leadership – the Stephen Lawn Memorial Fund – has been set up to commemorate his life and work.

RCP editor

[London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Alumni blog In memory of Professor Stephen Lawn 28 September 2016 – accessed 6 April 2019; The Lancet 2016 388 1876 – accessed 6 April 2019; The Lancet Infectious Diseases 2016 16 1336 – accessed 6 April 2019; BMJ 2016 355 5755 – accessed 6 April 2019; The Union International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease 28 November 2016 – accessed 6 April 2019]

(Volume XII, page web)

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