A salute to Derek Doyle – by David Clark

Published on: Author: David Clark 8 Comments
Derek Doyle 9 July 2014

I am delighted to report that Dr Derek Doyle  received the award of Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Glasgow at a graduation ceremony on our Dumfries Campus, on 9 July. The award was made by the University Chancellor, Professor Sir Kenneth Calman. It was a special moment for the two of them, and also for me as we honoured someone who has made such a contribution to the development of palliative care, in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally. Here are some extracts from the oration.

Early achievements

Derek was born on 13th July 1931 in Bury, near Manchester, but his family soon moved to Glasgow, where he attended school. His early plan was to study Naval Architecture at the University of Glasgow, but a last minute switch saw him enrol as a medical student at Edinburgh, where he qualified in 1955. He and his wife then went to South Africa, working as Church of Scotland missionaries. He concentrated initially on surgical work in a highly deprived area of what is now Kwa-Zulu-Natal and was then Medical Superintendent to a 150 bed hospital in the Transkei.


Returning to Edinburgh in 1966 he worked first as a family doctor and then also as an Associate Specialist in the Corstorphine and Beechmount  Hospital.  This was the time of the opening of the world’s first modern hospice at St Christopher’s in South London – something that was not lost on Derek or Ann Weatherall, the Matron at Costorphine. They began to explore the possibility of establishing a hospice in Edinburgh, which – like St Christopher’s – would not only provide excellent care to those at the end of life, but would also engage in teaching and research. Their goal was realised in 1977 when St Columba’s Hospice was opened on the banks of the Forth in Edinburgh and Derek Doyle became its first Medical Director.

By now wider interest in hospice and palliative care was growing apace. Derek threw himself into the development of undergraduate training programmes, CPD for qualified doctors and efforts to raise the profile of a new field of medical endeavour. His influence quickly spread beyond Scotland. Working with other pioneers, he helped shape and was the founding President of the Association of Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland.  Crucially, he worked with others to gain recognition for this area as a medical specialty, which occurred in 1987 – making Britain the first country in the world to create a career path in palliative medicine. He was the first consultant specialist in Palliative Medicine in Scotland.

International and national contributions

From here his international interests spread. He was the first Vice Chairman of the European Association for Palliative Care and first Chair of the European Committee for medical education and training in palliative care. He was a founding member of the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care, an organisation with a global reach in promoting better care at the end of life.

Closer to home Derek was Vice-Chairman of the National Council for Hospice and Specialist Palliative Care and remains the Honorary President of the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, to which he continues to commit his energies and support.

His skills in penmanship are widely known. He was the first editor of the journal Palliative Medicine and then went on to be senior editor of the highly influential Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine – the third edition of which he co-edited in 2005 with our University Chancellor, Professor Sir Kenneth Calman. He has over 50 publications and has authored and edited some eighteen books – including his 1999 memoir, The Platform Ticket.

Over the years Derek has accumulated numerous qualifications, awards and honours. He received the Order of the British Empire in 1987 and was made Honorary Doctor of Science at Queen Margaret University College in 2000. He holds Fellowships of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh and London; the Royal College of General Practitioners and of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts. He has held visiting professorships in five universities and in 2005 Derek received the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine´s Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the field of hospice and palliative medicine. He was elected to Lifetime Membership of the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care in 2009, and received a special award from the European Association for Palliative Care as recently as 2013.


Now in retirement, Derek Doyle lives in Edinburgh and continues to exert a quiet influence on palliative care developments at home and abroad. He has dedicated his life to compassion for patients and families and he has promoted the work of his specialty with passion and determination.

 David Clark




8 Responses to A salute to Derek Doyle – by David Clark Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. I read this citation with enormous pleasure and also pride – proud to have worked with Derek at the National Council for Hospice and Palliative Care where his dedication and knowledge combined with networking and political skills was a major factor in its establishment and early success.

  2. Thanks David to tell us about Dr Derek achievements in palliative care. We really congratulate his contribution and efforts made to promote palliative care in the world. May God bless him for all thinks that he did for patients and their family. Aimable Ruzima from Rwanda Palliative Care and Hospice Organization

  3. Even if he may forgat, I worked as a hospice doctor in Korea because Dr. Doyle arranged me to expirience hospice at Scotland. I love hospice patients and work freely for them. Thank you so much for all this to Dr. Doyle.

  4. We are a voluntary hospice-at-home service and are about to open a stand-alone hospice in northern NSW. We receive no government funding and all our services are free. As we cannot access Dr Doyle’s book “The Platform Ticket” in Australia we wonder if it is possible to obtain it through you. If so please advise cost, including postage and payment options. Thank you, Deirdre Stewart, Secretary. P.S. My aunt was nursed by Dr Doyle when she spent her last days at St Columba’s. I am so delighted that Glasgow University gave him this honour. He has been and still is an inspiration to all involved in end of life care.

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