Professor Rick G. Jones MA BM BCh MRCP (UK) DM
Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death of Professor Rick Jones (Leeds Institute of Health Sciences).
Rick was born in Manchester, and educated at Manchester Grammar School, but the family always retained their strong connection with Rick’s father’s Welsh family, visiting Wales every year throughout his childhood. Rick studied medicine at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, qualifying in 1978 (after an elective in California) and winning the Martin Wronker Prize in Medicine for meritorious performance in the research project of the Final Honour School. It was at Oxford that Rick met his wife, Vivien, whom he married in 1975.
From his undergraduate days, Rick’s primary clinical interests lay in metabolic diseases and their regulation, and his research career followed two main tracks: metabolic medicine and the use of computers in medicine. He remained in Oxford for the first five years of his medical career, where he and Viv lived on the Corpus Christi College barge, and in his spare time Rick worked on the restoration of the St John’s barge, developing his fine practical skills. As well as periods at the Radcliffe Infirmary and John Radcliffe Hospital, he obtained research assignments working on the UK Prospective Diabetes Study and a prestigious MRC Training Fellowship, completing an MD thesis on the role of insulin in the regulation of the mammary gland during lactation. The family moved to Leeds in 1983, when Viv took up a lectureship in the School of English and Rick became an Honorary Registrar and Tutor in Medicine in the Department of Medicine and Leeds General Infirmary.
Rick’s first two years at the University were spent as a clinical registrar (including helping to build a clinical audit for the management of diabetic foot ulcers), before his developing interest in Information Systems led to a move to Clinical Pathology and collaborative work with the School of Psychology, including an instrumental role in implementing the first pathology system at St James’s University Hospital. During the 1990s Rick obtained major European grants for work associated with systems for use in intensive care and operating theatres alongside a number of projects related to clinical chemistry. From 1995 he became increasingly pivotal in the NHS and the National NHS IT programmes, in particular taking a strategic role in the creation of the largest pathology service in the UK (arising from the merger of the departments in Leeds General Infirmary, Bradford Royal Infirmary and St James’s University Hospital) and the rationalisation of information systems across the new service.
In 1997 he began a formal collaboration with Dr Susan Clamp, Director of the Clinical Information Support Unit at the University, which led to the establishment of the Yorkshire Centre of Health Informatics in 2001, bringing together academic interests, industry and the NHS. Rick also collaborated with Dr Owen Johnson on the development of a joint BSc in Computing for Medicine and an MSc in Health Informatics (introduced in 2008 and delivered through the Yorkshire Centre of Health Informatics). Rick’s experience, acuity and scientific curiosity led him to become a national leader for informatics in medicine and pathology, inspiring and advising upon the modernisation of pathology in the NHS through tireless lobbying, major reports and a recent national conference. He was one of the key authors of the narrowly unsuccessful 2012 bid for a national MRC eHealth Centre which subsequently formed the basis for the successful MRC Medical Bioinformatics Centre that has created the new £12m MRC/ESRC Leeds Institute of Data Analytics. His collaborative work with Dr Johnson and the School of Computing upon ‘big data’ and data analytics has led to the re-establishment and improvement of data standardisation within key NHS systems that will improve the analysis of patient data and thus patient care and outcomes.
In addition to his impressive research record, Rick was an excellent and enthusiastic teacher with a strong belief in research-led education. He led the chemical pathology teaching team within the School of Medicine, encouraging students to gain a strong foundation in basic science and diagnostic skills and developing creative approaches to providing opportunities for clinical case interpretation and ‘learning analytics’. He also served upon a wide range of national academic bodies and University committees and was very active in consultancy and Knowledge Transfer, for example developing, with his research group, software for Bayesian analysis of antenatal risk of Down’s syndrome that was subsequently rolled out to more than 200 laboratories in 31 countries. (As a result of this work, Rick was appointed as clinical expert to the Committee of Inquiry into the only major Y2K incident in the NHS, involving a Downs Risk calculation failure). He was also an energetic and effective Pro-Dean of Faculty between 1994 and 1997 and retained throughout his career a willingness to shoulder departmental and collegial responsibility, despite his teaching and research loads.
Rick was tireless in his pursuit of academic excellence and innovation, setting – and invariably achieving – exactingly high standards in every project that he undertook. His national and international reputation for academic leadership, clinical excellence, high impact research and the implementation of practical and clear solutions was richly deserved, and the success of the University in the development of data analytics in the health domain was due in very large part to his vision and unswerving commitment. Despite this focus and ambition, however, he remained a very generous man, very highly regarded by colleagues in the academic world and the NHS for his outstanding personal as well as academic qualities. He devoted as much energy to his family, friends, music, and the family’s love of walking in the mountains, particularly the Pyrenees, as he did to his career. His enthusiasm in all things was infectious, and he was able to inspire others to experiment, and to achieve, but he was also fair minded and a shrewd, yet sympathetic, judge of character, enabling him to lead effectively but quietly, providing support wherever needed, and extending recognition for the contributions of all members of his teams.
Rick will be remembered with great respect, for his significant academic achievements and for the inspiring long and defiant battle to continue to live his life with the élan and intensity that he always had, after being diagnosed with myeloma ten years ago. He will also be remembered with very warm affection, by all those who worked and studied alongside him.
The funeral has taken place.