Obitiuary: Joyce Baird, Doctor, 85

Joyce Baird's career was about health and ideology. Picture: contributed
Joyce Baird's career was about health and ideology. Picture: contributed
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AN internationally acclaimed doctor who spent her working life in the Capital has died at the age of 85.

Joyce Baird helped set up the metabolic unit at the Western General Hospital and devoted her career to tackling diabetes.

She was born in Glasgow and educated in Aberdeen and 
St Andrews, but arrived in Edinburgh as a house physician at the Royal Infirmary in 1954.

Dr Baird was initially tipped by university professors for a career in philosophy, but she had other ideas and was soon following her parents, Sir Dugald and Lady May Baird, into medicine.

Sir Dugald and Lady May both worked as doctors in Aberdeen and campaigned for family planning services to be available to all – not just the well-off.

After entering the profession, Dr Baird quickly gained a reputation for her rigorous approach and in 1961 was invited to lecture in Geneva at the Fourth Congress of the International Diabetes Federation.

And it was while at the Royal Infirmary that she met Jack Splitt, whom she would marry.

Dr Baird would go on to give birth to the couple’s daughter, Miranda, a couple of years later – but tragedy struck and Mr Splitt died in the 1970s.

In 1976, Dr Baird was appointed senior lecturer and honorary consultant physician at Western General Hospital, receiving a readership in 1988.

She achieved international recognition for her work on the role of diet and obesity in diabetes, driven by her socialist beliefs to vigorously oppose all attempts to privatise the NHS.

She also developed a reputation for her attention to detail, and could often by found cleaning patient waiting areas with a damp cloth.

In 1978, at the Western General’s Metabolic Unit, she pioneered the use of glycosylated haemoglobin to monitor blood sugar levels.

And a few years later she was breaking new ground again, establishing a colony of rats to enable testing into diabetes prevention.

In addition to her everyday work, she was chairman of the Nutrition Society and vice-president of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes – as well as being a member of the Juvenile Diabetes Federation International Medical Science Review Board.

In 1992, the British Diabetic Association invited her to deliver the Banting Memorial Lecture, the highest award given by Diabetes UK, in recognition of her achievements in the field.

Dr Baird lived in a Georgian home with views over the Firth of Forth and could often be found out hillwalking in her spare time.

After her long career she retired in 1994.

She is survived by daughter Miranda and granddaughters Isobel and Helena, sister Maureen and brothers David and Euan.