Sir Roy Calne named Royal College Honorary Fellow

January 12, 2022 | Author: Royal College Staff

In this article:

  • Sir Roy’s legacy in Britain and impact around the world
  • Highlights of Sir Roy’s many professional achievements
  • Personal remembrances from Fellows who have worked with Sir Roy

Sir Roy Calne, FRCP, FRCS, FRS, FRCPSC (Hon), an eminent professor and pioneer in organ transplantation surgery, is now an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Few others have left such an indelible mark on the modern practice of medicine. He is celebrated for his vision and scientific pursuit, as detailed in the letters of support submitted by his nominators.

“Sir Roy is rightly regarded as Britain’s transplant pioneer and he is considered one of the world’s foremost figures in organ transplantation,” writes William J. Wall, CM, MD, FRCSC, professor emeritus at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University. “His contributions to organ grafting are so fundamental that their significance cannot be overstated.”

Sir Roy Calne (Photo credit: Addenbrooke’s Hospital, NHS Cambridge University Hospitals)

Sir Roy helped pioneer immunosuppression. He is credited with introducing the use of various pharmaceutical agents/immunosuppressive drugs to improve transplant outcomes. The extension of these protocols to lessen organ rejection has made it possible for transplantation to become a standard procedure for patients around the world.

“Sir Roy shared his knowledge of transplantation with generations of Canadian transplantation surgeons and physicians, and was therefore critical to the establishment of clinical and academic transplantation in Canada,” adds Douglas Quan, MD, FRCSC, FACS, program director of the Liver Transplantation Fellowship at London Health Sciences Centre.

Summarizes Lt.-Col. Vivian McAlister, OC, MB, FRCSC, FACS, a general surgeon at University Hospital London: “Sir Roy’s achievements would require hundreds of pages to document completely.”

Snapshot: Sir Roy Calne

Clinical and academic positions

  • Professor of surgery, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK (1965-1998)
  • Emeritus professor of surgery, Cambridge University (1995 to present)
  • Yoah Ghim Professor of surgery, National University of Singapore (2001-2019)

Clinical achievements (selected)

  • First kidney transplant in Cambridge, UK (1965)
  • First liver transplantation in Europe (1968)
  • World’s first use of the immunosuppressant ciclosporin/cyclosporine (1978)
  • World’s first combined liver, heart and lung transplantation — with John Wallwork from Royal Papworth Hospital (1986)
  • First intestinal transplantation in Britain (1992)
  • World’s first successful combined stomach, intestine, pancreas, liver and kidney cluster transplantation (1994)

Awards (selected)

  • Harkness Fellowship (1960)
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society (1974)
  • Recipient of the Lister medal, Royal College of Surgeons of England (1984)
  • Knighthood (1986)
  • Ellison-Cliffe Medal, Royal Society of Medicine (1990)
  • Lasker Award — shared with Thomas Starzl (2012)
  • Pride of Britain Lifetime Achievement Award (2014)

Personal accounts of working with Sir Roy

Dr. Wall counts Sir Roy as a close friend. In fact, Sir Roy was Dr. Wall’s teacher and mentor during his time at Cambridge in the mid-1970s studying transplant surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

He writes, “[Sir Roy] established an atmosphere of collaboration and interaction between surgeons and researchers in the department that was a model for others. Under his leadership, Addenbrooke’s Hospital would become one of the premier transplant centres in the world.”

Sir Roy was well-known for his avid curiosity and creative problem-solving.

Surgeon Allan S. MacDonald, CM, MD, FRCSC, who helped establish the liver and pancreas transplant program at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Nova Scotia and bring about the kidney transplant program at the former Victoria General Hospital, recalls one example of how Sir Roy’s persistence led to the breakthrough use of ciclosporine/cyclosporine.

He reminisces, “An ongoing effort in Calne’s lab was the search for drugs or agents that would affect the immune system. Many had been investigated so when David White, a PHD student in Calne’s unit, at an immunology and bacteriology conference in England attended a brief paper by Jean Borel on a fungal product developed as an antibiotic but with unfortunate immunological side-effects, he recognized that this would be attractive for Calne to pursue. Within months, they had established its effectiveness in rodent heart grafts, dog kidneys and primates. Unfortunately, the manufacturer had discontinued the drug and no more was available. Calne flew to Switzerland and persuaded the company to restart production, and cyclosporine revolutionized the transplant world.”

Sir Roy’s drive for continuous improvement has never wavered. Dr. Quan, who studied with Sir Roy in the 1990s, was similarly impressed by his approach to clinical investigation.

“It was clear to me that it was Sir Roy’s infectious enthusiasm and his appetite for knowledge that drove the entire department. While transplantation was well established by that time, he created an atmosphere of inquisitiveness with an attached sense of urgency. This persistent spirit of enquiry at Sir Roy’s level of achievement was equally impressive and inspiring for someone just embarking in his career.”

Photo: Left to right: Professor Su Metcalfe, Sir Roy Calne, Dr. Moffatt-Bruce.

March 22, 2022 — On a recent trip to England, Royal College CEO Dr. Susan Moffatt-Bruce visited Sir Roy Calne to bestow his Honorary Fellowship. Royal College President Dr. Richard Reznick participated via Facetime. Left to right: Professor Su Metcalfe, Sir Roy Calne, Dr. Moffatt-Bruce. (Photo supplied by Dr. Susan Moffatt-Bruce)

About Royal College Honorary Fellowship

The Royal College Council may bestow Honorary Fellowship on exceptional physicians, surgeons and lay persons who are not eligible for Fellowship. These individuals have demonstrated outstanding performance in a particular vocation or a specific area of professional activity directly or indirectly related to the field of medicine. Honorary Fellows may use the designation FRCPSC (Hon).


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Riccardo Superina | January 12, 2022
I first met him when I was a transplant fellow in 1984 at Oxford during the yearly summer competition between Oxford and Cambridge, I was lucky enough to meet him again later at the Oxford Cambridge cocktail party at the Transplantation Society meeting in Paris in 1992. I invited him and he accepted to be the honorary guest at the opening of the transplant ward at the new Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto the following year. He gave me one of his original paintings titled "Mother and Child" that shows a mother and her daughter following the daughter's liver transplant. It still hangs in my office. I remember our time together fondly.