Obituary: Professor Reginald Hall
Wednesday 03 August 1994
REGINALD HALL was a talented physician and clinical scientist, teacher and academic who established internationally acclaimed endocrine units in Newcastle and Cardiff, with special expertise in diseases of the thyroid and pituitary glands.
He was born in Belmont, Co Durham, in 1931 and was always proud of his Geordie heritage. He qualified in medicine in 1956 with First Class honours from Durham University following an outstanding undergraduate career which included a First Class honours intercalated BSc degree in physiology. In his early, formative years as a junior doctor he was particularly influenced by two physicians and endocrinologists at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle - Dr Natty Armstrong and Professor Sir George Smart. They encouraged him to pursue a career in academic medicine and endocrinology and, in 1960, he was awarded a prestigious Harkness Fellowship. This enabled him to undertake a period of research training at Harvard during which he first developed his lifelong interest in the thyroid gland. His work there formed the basis of his MD degree.
On his return to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle in 1967 he continued his thyroid research and his career became firmly established when he was appointed Wellcome Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Science from 1964 to 1967. In 1966 he was appointed Honorary Consultant Physician at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and in 1970 he was awarded a personal chair in medicine by Newcastle University. In 1980 he was appointed Professor of Medicine and Head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff, until his premature retirement through ill-health in 1989 at the age of 58.
Having established endocrine units in both Newcastle and Cardiff he contributed greatly to their development as medical centres of excellence for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Although Hall's interests in endocrinology were broad, he was mainly concerned with diseases of the thyroid gland. He was President of the Thyroid Club of the UK from 1978 to 1984 and a leading contributor to the European Thyroid Association from its inception in 1968. Two particular events gave him enormous satisfaction. The first was the decision of the European Thyroid Association Committee to hold their Annual Scientific Meeting in Newcastle in 1978, the first time the association had met in the UK. The second was his completion, shortly after his retirement, of a brief history of the European Thyroid Association.
Hall attracted young doctors from all over the world to train with him in Newcastle and Cardiff. Many of these went on to become senior physicians and leaders in their own fields. He taught by example, in the same way as he managed his patients, with warmth, humour and compassion.
Reg Hall's CV lists over 400 scientific papers, innumerable chapters and reviews and several textbooks. He was the first to acknowledge the contributions of others and unstinting in his praise of them. He was a member of both the Cell and Systems Boards of the Medical Research Council from 1976 to 1980 and Chairman of the Systems Board Grants Committee in 1979. He also chaired the British Diabetic Association Review Body from 1981 to 1989 and the Royal College of Physicians Standing Committee on Endocrinology and Diabetes from 1983 to 1989.
At the peak of his career, and shortly after his appointment in Cardiff, Hall developed a rare and devastating illness, primary amyloidosis, which required heart transplantation in 1984. He faced his illness in a matter-of-fact manner, determined that it would make as little difference as possible to his commitments. He pursued his clinical work, research and teaching with undiminished vigour and continued his travels to meetings as an invited lecturer.
However, in 1989 he decided that the time had come for him to retire. True to form, he maintained his active interest in medical matters and over the last two years was in the process of writing a text on medical eponyms. But he had more freedom to pursue some of his other long-standing interests - he was an expert bryologist and had a large collection of mosses, gathered during his many travels.
Even during his final days Hall was pleased to receive further accolades in the form of an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Wales and his Fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine.
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