An inspiration: Professor John Lennard-Jones

3rd April 2019

Following the news of his recent death, this article will explore the work and significant contribution of Professor John Lennard-Jones, who has supported this charity, Guts UK from it’s very beginning.

Professor John Lennard-Jones had a hand in the creation of the Digestive Disorders Foundation (DDF) from the offset 50 years ago. In his own words, the charity remained a dominant feature of his life for 8 years after his retirement.

In 1969, the idea that the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) should launch a charitable foundation was put forward at the annual meeting. The BSG were seeking recognition for gastroenterology as a speciality within general medicine. Training at the time was limited and little funding was devoted to gastroenterology, yet digestive disorders were prominent.

The patient-centred and supportive approach as a charity was a passion of Professor Lennard- Jones and the charity was formed in 1970 based on the arguments that:

  • There is an unrecognised importance of the specialty (gastroenterology)
  • There is a need for research support and co-ordination
  • There is a lack of organised training
  • There are opportunities and funding for research
  • There is a desire to familiarise the general public and policy makers with facts about the specialty

Prof. Lennard-Jones qualified in medicine in 1953 at University College Hospital Medical School, where he was appointed Consultant Physician before moving on to St Mark’s Hospital, London in 1965 and serving for almost 30 years. During this time, he was appointed as Professor of Gastroenterology at the Royal London Hospital Medical College in 1975.

During his role as the president of the DDF from 1992-2000, Prof. Lennard Jones aimed to see close-cooperation with other charities and build a balance between lay and medical influence within the governance of the charity. Amongst many other wise proposals, these still stand as strategic pillars for Guts UK today.

Having Prof. Lennard-Jones’ first-hand experience and a front-line perspective was invaluable for the charity and enabled the Digestive Disorders Foundation (now Guts UK) to build upon the core values of the charity, which are carried through to the present day and heavily influenced by Prof. Lennard-Jones.

A great man of gastroenterology who will be remembered fondly by many. 

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