Lives of the fellows

John Hildreth Young

b.14 October 1942 d.11 June 2016
Dip Biochem Lond(1965) MB BS(1968) MRCP(1973) MRCPath(1987) FFPM(1990) FRCP(1990) FRCPath(1993)

John Hildreth Young was a medical director at Merck, Sharp and Dohme. He was born in Greenford, Middlesex, the only child of Frances Faulkner Young and John Young (known as ‘Jack’). He grew up in a very happy household and, as a war time baby, he remembered being evacuated as a small child to Troon in Scotland with his mother while his father stayed back in London as he was in a reserved occupation – electronics – a major part of the war effort.

John attended primary school in Perivale and then Ealing Grammar School, where he was head boy in his final year. Initially he wanted to become a pilot, however his headmaster had other ideas and so he went to St Thomas’s Medical School, qualifying in 1968 not only with his medical degree but also with an intercalated qualification in clinical biochemistry. He represented St Thomas’s at water polo and enjoyed swimming all his life.

In 1973 he gained his MRCP and became an FRCP in 1990. Initially, John thought he wanted to be a GP, but over the years he changed his mind and entered the pharmaceutical industry, beginning with Wellcome and then on to Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD). To increase his qualifications in the early 1980s, he took a career break from the pharmaceutical industry and became a lecturer in metabolic medicine at Southampton University.

In 1984 John re-joined the pharmaceutical industry – returning to MSD. He was appointed as a medical director in 1986 and held this post for over 20 years, retiring in 2007. During his tenure, MSD launched a number of highly-successful medicines, including: Innovace (enalapril), an ACE (angiotensin-converting-enzyme) inhibitor licensed for hypertension and congestive heart failure; Zocor (simvastatin), a lipid-lowering agent used for high cholesterol; Cozaar (losartan), licensed for hypertension; Singulair (montelukast), used for asthma; Fosamax (alendronate sodium) for osteoporosis; Primaxin (Imipenem/cilastatin), an antibiotic, and many more.

John was fortunate to work in the pharmaceutical industry when there were huge new drug developments occurring and he used his talents well. He was an all-rounder, in the days when medical directors were responsible for medical affairs, clinical research, regulatory affairs and drug safety. John had a canny ability to spot trouble and take avoiding action before it became a crisis, and if it did become a crisis, his cool, logical head negotiated it with minimal fuss. He had a strong sense of fairness, trusted those around him and was always available for advice but never micro-managed. Many of today’s senior pharmaceutical physicians passed through his medical department during their training and were the better for it.

John was a member of the working party which set up the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine and was a founder board member, serving consecutively from 1989 to 2001. He then went back as a board member from 2004 to 2006 and returned as treasurer from 2010 to 2013. John therefore served for 17 years as a board member – a record at the time of writing! He was also an examiner for the Faculty, an educational supervisor and a revalidation appraiser.

John also held appointments within the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. He was on the medical committee and was a staunch supporter of the diploma in pharmaceutical medicine.

John was a member of a number of NICE guideline review panels from 2004 to 2010, on type one diabetes, tuberculosis, Parkinson’s disease, atrial fibrillation, urinary tract infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic heart failure. The review panels were set up as an independent quality assurance step in the guideline development process. The panels included experts on guideline methodology, health professionals and people with experience of the issues affecting patients and carers. John gave his time to ensure that the guidelines he was involved with were developed to the highest standard.

John had a very interesting and busy working life in which he gave his all to enrich the lives of others by ensuring that new medicines were available. This also meant he travelled a lot and this wanderlust did not stop once he retired six months before his 65th birthday. John enjoyed life to the full with his wife, Sue. They sailed their 48-foot yacht to Portugal in 2008, crossing the Bay of Biscay in four and a half days. They walked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in a day because it is recommended to do it in two! They dived on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s east coast and climbed up Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. They enjoyed many more adventures together – too numerous to mention.

John also wanted to keep fit – as if sailing and swimming were not enough! So he ran and completed some marathons for charity. I believe he got started because his daughter Trudi said he couldn’t do a run and he was never one to give in to a challenge! John ran marathons both during the time he was at work and once he had retired. He ran the Chicago marathon with Sue in 2000 and then did it again for his 65th birthday and a few times more. John also completed ‘the London’ three times, as well as marathons in Boston, Dublin and New York.

John lived life to the full, never backing down from a challenge and giving his all to any task. Although he was extremely clever, he could always put people at their ease and enable them to achieve their full potential. He was a wonderful man – kind, honest, generous and loving. He enriched the lives of everyone he came across. John gave so much to the world of medicine and the world is a much better place for his being in it.

John was diagnosed with advanced metastatic pancreatic cancer in January 2016 and sadly passed away six months later. He was survived by his heartbroken widow Susan, a daughter, Trudi (who followed in her father’s footsteps and became a doctor making John extremely proud), two stepchildren and six grandchildren. He is sadly missed by all who knew him.

Susan Young

(Volume XII, page web)

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