Lives of the fellows

Janet McLelland

b.26 September 1957 d.5 October 2017
BSc Lond(1978) MB BS(1981) MRCP(1984) FRCP(1996)

Jan McLelland was a consultant dermatologist in Sunderland and then in Newcastle. She rose to national prominence as honorary secretary of the British Association of Dermatologists (from 2010 to 2014), leading the King’s Fund work on quality standards for dermatology and contributing to work on the economic and social consequences of skin disorders.

Jan was born and grew up in Newcastle, the daughter of Thomas McLelland, a police officer, and Jean Margaret McLelland née Forrester, a school teacher. She won a scholarship to Dame Allan’s Girls’ School and went on to study medicine at University College London Medical School, gaining a BSc in pharmacology and many prizes before graduating with honours in 1981. She completed house jobs at University College Hospital (UCH), a senior house officer rotation in Newcastle and a medical registrar rotation at UCH. In 1985, she was appointed as a research fellow at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and honorary dermatology registrar at Hammersmith and Great Ormond Street hospitals. Her MD thesis, ‘Studies relating to Langerhan cell histiocytosis’, paved the way for her later establishment of a multidisciplinary histiocytosis service in Newcastle. She trained with Sam Shuster in Newcastle as a registrar and a senior registrar, and won the David Dickson research prize for her studies on contact allergic dermatitis in 1991.

Her main clinical subspecialty was genital dermatoses, and she brought together other specialists and a multidisciplinary team to develop an outstanding service. She carried out important research and contributed to national guidelines. She was caring, kind and loved by her patients: in 20 years of consultant life she had no complaints from any patient. She was a vibrant presence in the department.

Jan was superb at management and an excellent communicator. She became clinical director for dermatology in 1998 at a time of threats of ward closures and the abolition of academic dermatology. She promoted the link between academic and clinical dermatology, recognising this as a sound way to maintain clinical standards and enhance the quality of staff and students attracted to the North East. Jan established cordial, effective working relationships with senior managers at the trust. She introduced reforms to manage waiting lists and provide fast track cancer services. As a result, the department was awarded beacon status. Her role in this was recognised by an invitation to a special meeting with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at 10 Downing Street. Under her influence, the department expanded from eight to 14 consultants – at a time of pressures to cut the service. As a result of her managerial skills the future of clinical and academic dermatology in Newcastle was secured.

Her drive and efficiency led to her appointment as clinical director of a unified plastic surgery, ophthalmology and dermatology directorate in 2010. Her enthusiasm, skill and fairness developed another highly effective area of the trust. In recognition of her highly professional and effective management skills, she was appointed associate medical director of the trust in 2014. Public Health England appreciated her rapid, efficient work in the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s response to the ebola threat. The outstanding performance of the whole trust over those years compared against national criteria reflected her wider input.

Jan performed exceptionally in a range of hobbies. Her golf handicap was 14 and she became ladies’ captain of Close House Golf Club. She played bridge, skied, kept hens and bees, cycled, played the clarinet, developed a large garden and entertained. She was always impeccably dressed. Following a tibial fracture (sustained while cycling), she took early retirement in 2015.

Her diagnosis of disseminated adenocarcinoma of unknown primary was only made in May 2017. Hugely supported by her husband, son and sister, she was positive throughout. Despite chemotherapy, she organised her 60th birthday party and celebrated with a large group of family and friends less than two weeks before she died. She was survived by her husband, Paul, her son, James, her sister, Caroline, and her mother.

Aileen Taylor
Nick Reynolds

[BMJ 2017 359 5270 – accessed 19 March 2018]

(Volume XII, page web)

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