Emeritus Professor of Child Health, Queen’s University of Belfast Honorary Professor of Child Health, University of Swansea
John Ashton Dodge was born in Cardiff, in 1933. After junior posts he decided on a career in Paediatrics and spent 2 years in Children’s Hospital, Boston, USA and Harvard Medical School 1961-63.
Among his mentors there were Drs Shwachman and Diamond, and he was working in the hospital when the first of their child SDS patients was found to have a “new” condition, not a variant of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) as was originally thought.
In 1964 John was appointed as Lecturer in Child Health at Queen’s University, Belfast, and at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. His work there included undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, clinical and academic research in gastroenterology, metabolic disorders, nutrition and genetics.
He established a CF clinic serving Northern Ireland and joined relevant European and International organisations. Returning to Cardiff in 1971 he set up the first CF and paediatric gastroenterology clinics in Wales, with outreach clinics in other parts of the Principality.
His research activity included epidemiology, neonatal screening, delivery of health care for children, impact of life events on children, psychosomatic disorders, energy balance in CF, childhood diarrhoeal disorders, dietary fats and the small intestine, fatty acids and prostaglandins, human milk composition relative to maternal nutrition, recurrent abdominal pain in children.
This of course needed collaboration with clinical and scientific colleagues from other disciplines as well as postgraduate students and trainees in the departmental laboratory and hospital wards.
In 1985 he was invited back to the Nuffield Chair of Child Health in Belfast, as Head of Department. A similar range of clinical and research activity continued, but with more facilities. and a larger department.
By then he was a frequent examiner at universities in the UK and abroad, committee member, secretary or chairman of various organisations. These activities developed to include serving on the councils of the British Paediatric Association, BSPGHAN (President 1989-92) and the Royal College of Physicians (London) (Paediatric Vice-President and Chair of the Paediatric Board 1995 until the RCPCH was established in 1996).
From 1988-2011- he was an Adviser in Human Genetics to WHO and chaired a series of Expert meetings on Cystic Fibrosis which were published with appropriate recommendations.
In 1999 he was made CBE “for Services to Children’s Health”.
John retired from Belfast in 1998, hoping to have less administration and more time for patient contact. He was offered a chair in Paediatrics in Swansea University, but he requested that it should be Honorary (unpaid), to avoid administration but allow time for working in the young CF clinic and for research. It had the additional advantages of secretarial help, the University library, and an academic address.
Although no longer seeing patients he has continued to be active in research, publishing, reviewing papers and projects, some teaching, and speaking at conferences and elsewhere.
At one such conference in Boston, Massachusetts he was introduced to Kim Wright by Dr Peter Durie, Toronto, who was an old friend, and between them they persuaded him to help Kim set up SDS (UK) and to build a Scientific/ Medical Advisory Committee. International SDS conferences in Verona (2001) and Toronto (2003) followed
Before we hosted the third International SDS Conference at Cambridge in 2005. Continuing involvement with SDS has been a great excuse for neglecting his garden and other domestic chores.
He has more than 300 publications including Reports, invited reviews, book chapters, 10 books, and 175 original research papers In 2017 he retired as a Trustee of all remaining charities but has no intention of learning to play golf.