Professor Sir Donald Campbell CBE

1930 to 2004

Professor Sir Donald Campbell

Professor Sir Donald Campbell, CBE, Emeritus Professor of Anaesthesia at the University of Glasgow, died peacefully in hospital on 14 September 2004 aged 74.

With his death, medicine in general and anaesthesia in particular has lost one of its most distinguished practitioners whose influence spread far beyond the boundaries of everyday practice. A tall distinguished figure, he was a pioneer in many aspects of anaesthesia, particularly the introduction of Intensive Care Units.

Professor Campbell was born in Rutherglen, near Glasgow in 1930. During the war he was evacuated to Blair Atholl in Perthshire where he stayed with two of his many aunts. His time there engendered in him a great love of the Highlands and its people . He also learned how to poach trout and salmon and this was the start of his lifelong love of fishing.

On returning to Glasgow he attended Hutcheson’s Boys Grammar School where he received a good grounding in leadership which was to become evident in the future.

In later years he became a Governor of his old school and last year he received a George and Thomas Hutcheson award (a “G & T” award) as one of its most distinguished alumni. G & T however was not Donald’s drink. He much preferred whisky.

After graduating in medicine from the University of Glasgow in 1952, he completed his resident posts and then left for Canada to begin training in anaesthesia.

He worked in Edmonton and in Lethbridge, Alberta and after three years, in 1956, he returned to Glasgow and began his long association with anaesthesia in the West of Scotland.

Following further training in the Royal Infirmary and at Stobhill Hospital he became a Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and was appointed Lecturer in the University Department of Anaesthetics at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1960. The following year he transferred to the Health Service Department as a Consultant, a post which he held for the next fifteen years.

While in Canada he developed an interest in anaesthesia for heart surgery and he also noted the early development of Intensive Care Units which were associated with the concept of Progressive Patient Care. He was determined to introduce this in the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, and with much lobbying and political skill he succeeded in persuading his surgical colleagues that this was the best way forward for their patients.

The Respiratory Intensive Care Unit was opened in 1966. Professor Campbell was its first Director and the unit is a lasting memorial to his foresight and drive.

At the same time he pursued his research interests in several areas mainly involving the development of more sophisticated ventilators, the pharmacology of new analgesic drugs and the effects of smoke inhalation on the lungs.

His published work included over a hundred papers on anaesthesia , intensive care and related subjects in peer reviewed journals and he was the author of two textbooks.

Internationally he was in demand as a Visiting Professor and lecturer and he was a Fellow of several overseas colleges.

Professor Campbell always believed strongly that Health Service Departments and University Departments should work closely together and in 1976 when the Chair of Anaesthesia in Glasgow became vacant he was appointed to it and held this post until he retired in 1992. From here he was able to develop his interest in medical education and wield his influence and apply his wisdom over a wider field which was further expanded in 1987 when he was appointed Dean of the Medical School for a four year period.

Not surprisingly for someone of his standing, the profession was not slow to recognise Professor Campbell’s many contributions to all aspects of his specialty and after periods as an examiner and board member of the Faculty of Anaesthetists (forerunner of The Royal College of Anaesthetists) he was elected Dean of the Faculty for three years from 1982.

Immediately following this he was elected Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, a particular honour for an anaesthetist.

Previously, in 1977, he had been Vice–President of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland and , in 1979, President of the Scottish Society of Anaesthetists.

His interest in medical education was recognised when he was appointed chairman of the Scottish Council for Post-Graduate Medical Education and as a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the British Council he was involved in arranging attachments to U.K. Departments for many young trainee anaesthetists from overseas and also from The Royal Navy.

Before retiral he was elected President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, of which he was already a Fellow. He was the first anaesthetist to hold this post. Later, in 1994, he became the first Chairman of the West Glasgow Hospitals University Trust.

In recognition of the major contributions which Professor Campbell made to so many branches of medicine, he was awarded the C.B.E. in 1987 and he received his Knighthood in 1994.

Soon after his retiral he suffered a stroke and this limited his ability to enjoy his favourite sports of fishing , curling and shooting , especially fishing. It did not however suppress his enjoyment of the social scene and his prowess as a raconteur was undiminished.

While is hard to convey the breadth of Professor Campbell’s professional achievements in print, it is impossible to do justice to his love of people, his joy in parties, his delight in others successes, and his love of conversation which crossed every social boundary, and which is the mark of not just a good man but of a great Scotsman.

Professor Campbell is survived by his wife Kay and their two daughters, and by a son , a daughter and two grandchildren from his first marriage to Nan who died in 1974.

Dr A B M Telfer
Glasgow

Originally published in the Glasgow Herald on 24 September 2004.