Obituary: Andrew Douglas, 90

Andrew Douglas was hailed as a 'superb doctor'. Picture: contributed
Andrew Douglas was hailed as a 'superb doctor'. Picture: contributed
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One of Edinburgh’s most influential medical figures of the 20th century has died at the age of 90.

Andrew Douglas was born in Wemyss, Fife, on May 31, 1923 into a large family in a small mining community.

He qualified as a doctor in style, winning the Wightman Prize for Clinical Medicine at the Edinburgh University Medical School in 1946.

He married Helen in 1949 – the beginning of a union which lasted almost 65 years until his death in the Capital in December.

Dr Douglas’s career began at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and he also had a spell in charge of the Field Ambulance Training Centre of the British Army of the Rhine.

He went on to spend time as a GP before becoming a lecturer in bacteriology at his alma mater and returning to the Royal Infirmary as assistant bacteriologist.

In 1952, he passed the examination to become a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

He became a key member of a group of chest physicians and bacteriologists in the city who made major contributions to establishing a drug which, for the first time, cured tuberculosis.

In 1963, he was appointed senior lecturer in the department of respiratory diseases at Edinburgh’s old City Hospital, a department which rapidly became world famous.

Dr Douglas’s clinical, academic and administrative contributions were a vital part of that department’s success.

He was elected a Fellow of the Edinburgh College in 1965, by which time he had developed a special interest in sarcoidosis and had rapidly acquired an international reputation in that and other granulomatous lung diseases.

In the mid-1970s, he moved base to the Royal Infirmary to strengthen the respiratory service, and later became reader in the department of medicine and a physician whose opinion was much sought and greatly valued.

In 1986, he achieved legendary status when he was awarded the Royal College’s Cullen Prize, a “prize for the greatest benefit done to practical medicine”.

Paying tribute, one friend said: “Andrew was, above all, a superb doctor – a physician of excellent clinical skills whose genuine interest in patients was evident to all who knew and worked with him.

“He made each patient feel special, his remarkable memory for their family details and interests endearing him to them.

“He worked extremely hard in caring for his patients to a very high level and in a very personal way. There were no airs, no posing.

“He will be remembered also as an outstanding teacher. His method was based on his immense clinical experience, liberally embellished with anecdotes and some favourite turns of phrase, many of which those he trained have subsequently used in their own practices.”