Obituary: Dr Paul Allan FRCR FRCP, radiologist

Paul Allan

Paul Allan

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BORN: 26 August, 1950, in Barrow-in-Furness. Died: 12 January, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 64

Dr Paul Allan, a respected Edinburgh radiologist, died suddenly at home on 12 January, aged 64, only a few months before he was due to retire.

Paul Allan was born and raised in Barrow-in-Furness where his father and grandfather were general practitioners, although his family had Scottish connections. After Stoneyhurst College, he commenced medical training in London, initially at University College, where he obtained a BSc in anatomy, and then at the Westminster Hospital Medical School. He graduated MB BS in 1974. Junior posts in London and Southampton followed during which he obtained his MRCP.

In 1976, at a performance of Manon Lescaut (Paul was a stickler for detail and would have wanted it known that it was Puccini’s Manon), he met Helen Rosemary Hoof, an orthopaedic ward sister who had trained at St Thomas’ Hospital. They married in 1978.

Helen and his family were the bedrock of his life and he was immensely proud of his sons, Nick and Chris.

In 1978 Paul and Helen moved to Edinburgh “for two years before returning south” for Paul to start training in radiology, while Helen worked at Princess Margaret Rose Orthopaedic Hospital. He obtained his DMRD in 1980, FRCR in 1982 and was elected FRCP Edin in 1990.

During his training Paul developed an interest in ultrasound which was then in its infancy. He is fondly remembered by his early mentor Dr Roger Wild for his enthusiasm and aptitude for ultrasound.

In 1983 he was appointed senior lecturer in medical radiology and honorary consultant radiologist (transferring to a NHS consultant post in 1999) at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh with the remit of developing diagnostic ultrasound.

At the time, Paul was the only radiologist in the department with an interest in ultrasound and had two-to-three sessions per week. He steadily developed the service and introduced new techniques such as vascular ultrasound and biopsies.

His skills were particularly in demand by the vascular, renal, liver and transplant services. He willingly made himself available out of hours even when not formally on-call. When he started, the ultrasound department consisted of one primitive machine squeezed into a cubbyhole in the corner of a crowded department. Now there are four, soon to be five, ultrasound machines that are in continuous use.

His long-time friend and collaborator, Paul Dubbins, wrote: “Paul had a prodigious appetite for work. He was in the forefront of development of applications of Doppler. He was responsible for driving forward standards in this area of ultrasound and developing standard parameters of measurement. He was the driving force behind our collaboration to write Clinical Doppler Ultrasound.

“Paul was honorary treasurer of the British Medical Ultrasound Society, then president in 1998-2000, leading the society at a time when its influence was perhaps at its greatest. He was involved in the international activities of BMUS representing the society particularly in Europe. Paul was a great teacher of ultrasound, meticulous in his preparation and passionate about his subject.”

Paul’s other main clinical interest was abdominal imaging and consequently he also developed expertise in CT scanning, particularly of the abdomen. His opinion was respected and often sought, especially by clinicians with difficult cases. He took his last clinical conference only a few days before he died.

His research focused on Doppler ultrasound of the liver, kidneys and peripheral vessels. He wrote more than 80 peer-reviewed papers, 20 book chapters and obtained £3 million of research grants.

In addition to Clinical Doppler Ultrasound, which has gone to several editions and sold more than 10,000 copies, he jointly edited, with Grant Baxter and Mike Weston, the 2011 edition of Clinical Ultrasound, the definitive UK text on ultrasound. He was frequently invited to speak at national and international meetings and also organised several meetings.

Paul was heavily involved in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education and for several years ran the successful South East of Scotland Training Scheme in Radiology. He held various positions in the Royal College of Radiologists, perhaps most importantly as chair of the committee that vetted training schemes throughout the UK. He was president of the Scottish Radiological Society in 2004-6.

In his younger days, Paul played rugby for Westminster Hospital and, after he moved to Edinburgh, for Edinburgh Wanderers. His family have memories of him happily après-rugby, glass in hand.

He enjoyed walking and jogging on Blackford Hill close to his home until he developed a DVT and subsequent pulmonary embolus following a long-haul flight. The consequent damage hampered his mobility subsequently, a source of some frustration.

He bore these afflictions as merely an inconvenience, not letting them get in the way of what he still wished to achieve. Latterly he curled with a group of Edinburgh medics. He was an enthusiastic computer user for many years, somewhat dismissive of others not as computer-literate, especially those who did not read their newspaper online.

Paul became clinical director of Radiology at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 2000, and subsequently extended his remit to include the other radiology departments in Lothian, a sometimes thankless and frustrating task trying to reconcile the twin problems of inexorably increasing demand and lack of resource.

Throughout, he maintained his good cheer, sometimes to the surprise of colleagues. Regardless of the problems, his desk was always immaculately tidy.

Over the last 12 months he started to prepare for retirement. He dieted successfully and had to take in several notches on his belt. He relinquished his managerial responsibilities at the end of 2014. He intended to retire at the end of March 2015, gradually reducing his working week over the preceding three months. It is a particularly cruel irony that he died at the end of the first such week. His colleagues were deeply saddened by his death. He will be missed. As a radiographer said to me: “He had a presence.” Our sympathies go to Helen and his sons.

The funeral service will be held on Friday, 23 January at 1:45pm at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Lauriston Street followed by a committal at 3pm at Mortonhall Crematorium, Howden Hall Road.

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