RIE - Endocrinology Research Unit


Prior to 1966, Clinical Chemistry Services for the R.H.S.C. were provided from a small laboratory at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital by J Douglas Crombie, Lecturer and Janet AB Darling. The department of Child Life and Health was associated with the services provided for the R.H.S.C. and Terry E Isles, who was appointed as Lecturer in Dundee ca. 1966 was a Lecturer in that department.

In 1966 the N.H.S. and the University founded a reference laboratory for paediatric work; the Department of Paediatric Biochemistry. The Department was based at the R.H.S.C. and served the South East of Scotland for reference work, while providing routine services to about 1000 beds in the south of Edinburgh. R Angus Harkness, from the M.R.C. Clinical Endocrinology Research Unit, was appointed as Consultant in administrative charge and part time Lecturer in Clinical Chemistry. Crombie was promoted to Medical Assistant and provided a Regional Service for the assay of lead. Janet Darling developed paediatric endocrinology and Andrew D Nicol covered the difficult field of intracellular enzymology which was needed for the diagnosis of inherited metabolic diseases; some of the enzymology was transferred to Paediatric Pathology later. (ref: 23, 47)

In its first ten years the laboratory made a number of diagnoses not previously described in the U.K., proved the existence of hexachlorophane toxicity in the new-born, identified a new "forbidden" pathway of drug metabolism, isolated and identified progesterone from cow's milk (providing the basis for pregnancy diagnosis methods for cows) and defined the tissue localisation of adenosine deaminase and hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase, thus explaining some of the effects of their deficiencies. (ref: 47)

Pradip Adhikary and Andrew Adams were successful PhD students during this period. Harkness left in 1976 to take up an appointment at the M.R.C. Clinical Research Centre, Northwick Park, Harrow. Crombie took charge of the department until his death in June 1978.

Alan Westwood, from Birmingham and Liverpool (1976 to 78), was appointed as Principal Biochemist in 1978 and Top Grade Biochemist from 1980-96. He developed a highly user friendly and responsive laboratory LIMS and a RHSC HIS system, first on Macintosh and subsequently on PCs and was seconded to IT in 1996. He was Clinical Director for Clinical Support Services at RHSC in the late 90s, until the Trust was dissolved in 1999. He became Director of IT in 1999 and retired from the NHS in 2000. (ref: 47)

Patricia Crofton (later Raemaekers), who had been a PhD student under AF Smith (1974 to 79), and a Lecturer at Edinburgh Royal, was appointed Senior Grade in 1982. She won the John King Award in 1985 and was appointed Principal Grade in 1991. She has an extensive publication record in ALP isoenzymes, and paediatric endocrinology.

In 1981 Jean Kirk, from University College Hospital, London (1977 to 1981), was appointed as a Basic Grade Biochemist. She was appointed as Senior Biochemist in 1986, Principal Biochemist in 1990, acting Top Grade in 1996 and Top Grade in 1999. She has been responsible for the metabolic investigations of the department from 1989, including incorporating the work of the previous Biochemical Genetics Unit. In her own words, she has been unable to escape from ongoing input into sweat testing and cystic fibrosis diagnosis, but has also published on a variety of aspects of inborn errors of metabolism. In 1987 Jean won the John King Award with a paper titled "Interpretation of Sweat Tests".

Other biochemists who worked in the department include Fiona Carragher, who moved to Kings, in London, in 2000, W Gordon Brydon (to 1976), J Butterworth, and Kay Millar (ca. 1975 to 1979).

Helen C Losty was appointed ca 1979 and left in 1986 to take up an appointment as Senior Grade Biochemist, later Principal Grade at University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, where she was responsible for the paediatric section.

John M Rattenbury, who had been a Basic and Senior Grade Biochemist in Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital, London from 1973 to 1976, was appointed as Senior Biochemist in 1976 and left in 1982 to take up an appointment in Sheffield. He moved to Birmingham in 1979 and was appointed as Top Grade Biochemist and Head of Department in Haverfordwest in 1991. Following his retiral from Haverfordwest he became an active Consultant Biochemist locum, working mainly in the West Midlands and finally retired to Pembrokeshire in 2008.

Janet Gowdy (later Chestnutt) was a Senior Grade Biochemist from 1986-88. She moved to a Senior Grade post in Belfast, and subsequently completed a medical degree.

Fiona Carragher was a Higher Specialist Trainee biochemist in the department from 1996-2000, having completed Grade A training in London. She was appointed Principal Biochemist at King's College Hospital in 2000, and Top Grade Biochemist at Guys Hospital in 2002, where she is responsible for the metabolic section and is Director of Newborn Screening.

Rachel Edwards was a Higher Specialist Trainee biochemist in the department from 2001-2004, having completed Grade A training in London, and B grade posts in Sheffield and Manchester. She was appointed Principal Biochemist at Glasgow RHSC in 2004.

Lee Campbell, who had been a Grade A Trainee in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh from 2002, was appointed as Senior Grade in 2005 and won the John King Award in 2006.

The Biochemical Genetics unit was part of the Pathology Department prior to 1988. Guy Besley had worked there since the mid 1970s, developing lysosomal enzyme analysis and prenatal diagnosis, and was latterly Principal Grade. He was appointed Top Grade at the Willink Biochemical Genetics Unit in Manchester in 1991. David Broadhead was a Senior Biochemist from the same unit, who followed Guy to a post in Manchester in 1993. John Butterworth was the third biochemist from this unit. John retrained in general paediatric biochemistry, bravely attending ACB training courses as the only man amongst a group of women twenty years his junior. He retired in 2000. The department continues to offer a wide range of metabolic investigations, and is an active member of Scottish and UK wide metabolic networks.

Edinburgh Northern Hospital Group

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(Last revised September 2008)