Ian Kelly

Ian George Kelly: 1948 - 2004


Written by Professors W Angus Wallace & David L. Hamblen

Ian was born in England – in Liverpool. He later grew up in West Derby and then went to Edinburgh University to study Psychology. After one year he switched to Medicine and graduated MB ChB in 1972 when he also won the University Robert Jones Prize in Orthopaedics, an event that probably shaped his choice of postgraduate career. In the same year he married Helen who was then nursing at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and who he had met through their shared interest in Scottish Country Dancing.

His new mother-in-law gave Ian a chanter (the working end of the bagpipes), a gift that stimulated him to take up piping, and he subsequently became an accomplished performer on that instrument. In the next eight years they had four children and as many moves as Ian pursued his surgical career. He undertook his general surgical training in Liverpool, obtaining the Edinburgh FRCS in 1977, but then returned to Glasgow for his specialist training in Orthopaedics.

From early in his training he had shown a strong interest in research and in 1978 joined the University Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, chaired by Professor David Hamblen, at the Western Infirmary Glasgow. There he worked as a Research Fellow studying gait analysis in patients requiring hip replacement for arthritic disease. This project, carried out in collaboration with the Bioengineering Unit of Strathclyde University, awakened his interest in biomechanics. The links he established there allowed him to continue his later research interests into the mechanics of the shoulder joint. In 1980 he was appointed Lecturer at Glasgow University. He showed a natural aptitude for teaching and was a popular lecturer with both medical students and surgical trainees throughout his career. He was awarded a research Doctorate of Medicine (MD) degree from Edinburgh for his thesis on the hip in 1984.

After completing his own orthopaedic training in 1983 he was promoted to Senior Lecturer and recognised as an NHS Consultant – a post that allowed him to develop his clinical and research interests in the shoulder joint.

The stimulus for this new direction was his increasing involvement with patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis. When he obtained funding for a six-month sabbatical leave in 1986 he chose to visit Lund in Sweden, a centre specialising in the disease, and with Ian's typical determination he learned Swedish to help communicate with the patients. This trip was a tremendous professional success where Ian worked closely with many Swedish Orthopaedic surgeons and, as a consequence, Ian developed a growing number of international colleagues and contacts.

On his return to the UK, Ian received the first of many awards when he was selected as one of the four British representatives on the prestigious ABC Travelling Fellowship in 1986. This took him on a six week tour of major orthopaedic centres in America and Canada, accompanied by his bagpipes to entertain his hosts and fellow travellers.

Despite his increasingly heavy workload he always found time to spend with his young family and to develop their outdoor interests. He had been a useful runner in his youth and employed his fast footwork at the West of Scotland Rugby Club, where he coached and refereed for the junior mini-rugby teams, as well as acting as its Medical Officer. He also introduced his children to his other interests of fishing, hill-walking, and sailing on Loch Lomond.

In 1989 Ian moved from the Western to Glasgow Royal Infirmary as an NHS Consultant. This provided him with closer clinical links with the major Rheumatology unit in the City, while maintaining his interest in teaching and research. He quickly settled into his new environment and by 1994 had been appointed Clinical Director of the NHS unit.

Ian led Scotland into Shoulder Surgery both nationally and internationally. In the national arena Ian organised and ran the inaugural meeting of the British Elbow and Shoulder Society (BESS) in 1988 – with the Society being created at this meeting. His shoulder interests were focussed initially on Rheumatoid Arthritis affecting the shoulder and he introduced the concept of the "wet" and the "dry" Rheumatoid Shoulder. His international standing in the field of shoulder surgery had now become firmly established. He edited several textbooks and wrote numerous papers on the subject, receiving many invitations to lecture overseas. In 1994 he was invited to be a Visiting Professor to the Western Orthopaedic Association in the USA, as well as travelling to Singapore and back to Scandinavia. Closer to home his abilities were recognised when he was elected President of BESS from 1997 to 1999, ran the 10th Scientific Meeting of BESS in 1998, and in 1999 he was appointed Editor in Europe of the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. In addition he was heavily involved in examining duties and the administration of postgraduate surgical training in both the Glasgow and Edinburgh Surgical Royal Colleges. Despite this enormous workload he still found time to provide dedicated surgical care to his many patients and to help fill any gaps in the clinical service. A typical example was his willingness to cover for the Regional Bone Tumour Service at the Western Infirmary as the solitary Specialist Consultant for two years between 2001 and 2003 when the hospital was unable to fill a Consultant vacancy. More recently he had set up a research project on Frozen Shoulder, exploring the biochemical and genetic causation of this enigmatic condition – a project which has already borne fruit.

The abiding impression that is left by this unassuming, but compassionate and caring surgeon was summed up by the Minister at his Thanksgiving Service. "He will be remembered as the tall man with the warm smile, the distinctive voice and bow-tie, easy to love and easy to respect. A surgeon worth listening to, a teacher worth learning from, and especially a husband, brother, and dad who meant so much."

Ian is survived by his wife Helen, daughter Mairi, and sons Stuart, Kenneth and Colin.