Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Professor Ian Campbell Roddie CBE, BSc 1950 (1928 - 2011)

Ian Roddie, Dunville Professor of Physiology, Queen’s University, Belfast (1964 -1982), who died on 28th May 2011, was an innovative physiologist whose classical work on peripheral vascular dynamics and lymphatic circulation is still widely quoted.  A lucid and inspirational teacher he was also a deep thinker on medical education and his pioneering work on instruction and assessment methodology stimulated timely debate and remains significant.  Not least, he was an efficient enabling administrator and a decisive executive.

Ian Campbell Roddie was born on 1st December 1928, the third (of four) medical sons of a local Methodist minister.  He entered Queen’s from Methodist College, Belfast in 1946 graduating MB, BCh, BAO in 1953 having previously taken a BSc in Physiology (1950, 1st class honours), and won the Malcolm Exhibition (1951) and the McQuitty Scholarship (1953) at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, the major teaching hospital associated with Queen’s.  After house appointments at the Royal Victoria he joined Professor David Greenfield’s talented research team at Queen’s working with J.T. Shepherd (later to be chairman of the Mayo Foundation), R.F. Whelan (later to be Vice-Chancellor of the Universities of Western Australia and then of Liverpool), and W.E. Glover (later to be Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales) into the nervous control of peripheral blood vessels which Greenfield and his predecessor in the Dunville chair, Henry Barcroft, had pioneered.  This led to many publications, an MD (with Gold Medal, 1957), a Harkness Commonwealth Fund Fellowship to the University of Washington, Seattle (1960-1) and a DSc (QUB, 1962) on his return.  When he succeeded Greenfield in 1964 he was leading major research into the effect of mental stress and thermoregulation on the peripheral circulation which he would soon extend to include the effects of synthetic cardio-vascular-active drugs and the mechanisms of the circulation of lymph.

The Dunville Chair brought the added responsibilities of being head of a large and active department.  Roddie at once identified, analysed and prioritised these, decided courses of action for each, and resolutely followed them.  A lucid, disciplined and popular lecturer he was at ease with students and they with him (who elected him President of the Belfast Medical Students Association, their ultimate imprimatur of popularity and respect), and juniors who were not were helped to be so.  Faced with the paucity of rigorous testing of the merits of long-favoured teaching and assessment methods and those coming into vogue, with his close colleague, WFM Wallace, he published in 1971 the ground-breaking Multiple Choice Questions in Human Physiology: With Answers and Comments (6th edition, 2004; Italian (1978), Japanese (1982) and paper-back (1978) editions), and later many challenging appraisals in the Lancet (1984; ii: 802-3; 860-1; 918; 973-4. 1030-1) and elsewhere.  He encouraged the research aspirations of junior colleagues working for a doctoral degree and also of medical, dental and science undergraduates in their final honours BSc year, supervised them closely, imbued them with something of his infectious enthusiasm, and often involved them as co-authors in his own studies which produced some 70 papers many of them in the influential Journal of Physiology, as well as chapters in books.  Knowing the importance of wide subject explanation and promotion within the profession he published in 1971 the popular Physiology for Practitioners (2nd edit., 1975; Italian (1974) and German (1977) editions), and 1975, with WFM Wallace, the near-mandatory text-book for conscientious professors who truly have something to say, The Physiology of Disease (Spanish edition, 1978).

Roddie was well aware of the dangers of professional and academic parochialism and worked to counter them. He was a frequent reader of papers to the Physiological Society and encouraged his staff to do likewise, was chairman (1958-8) of its Committee, a Sherrington Lecturer, and on retirement an honorary member, and served on other national professional bodies within the discipline, notably the Physiological Systems Board of the MRC.  A sabbatical was taken at the University of New South Wales (1983-4), time was spent in Shinsu University, Matsumoto, Japan, and at other Far Eastern centres, and he was a sometime external examiner at all the Irish medical schools, eleven in Britain (including all the Colleges of Surgeons where he examined for the Fellowship), and six abroad, four being in the Middle or Near East and two in Africa.  Closer to home he supported all-Ireland academic and professional bodies even when this was not general in Northern Ireland, mainly through the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, to which he read many papers, was awarded its Conway Bronze Medal and was elected President of the Biological Sciences section and then of the Academy itself (1985-8).  He became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and in 1978 was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

In 1976 Roddie was elected (part-time) Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Queen’s for five years bringing an added work-load, considerable in the wake of Todd, and other, Reports, which involved radical changes in the undergraduate syllabus and in postgraduate education and training; and since Queen’s had the only medical school in Northern Ireland there was close involvement with the Northern Ireland health service.  As well as regional committees he was now a member of the Medical Sub-Committee of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, and when Sir John Henry Biggart died in 1979 he replaced him on the General Medical and Dental Councils.  Always a decisive departmental head he showed himself just as capable a Faculty one and also an enabling administrator, so valuable in the university advisory and command structure since he was intent on identifying and instigating courses of action rather than just reaching conclusions!  Shortly after his term expired he went on a sabbatical (1983-4) to Australia and the Far East returning with an enthusiasm for the developing medical schools and sufficiently refreshed to accept appointment, in 1984, as a Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s (the other was Professor (later Sir) Colin Campbell, shortly to be Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham), a formidable duo of assistants for any Vice-Chancellor.  During all this period he continued to publish original research papers in physiology and to contribute to the debates on student selection, medical education and its assessment, proving himself to be a challenging, albeit thoughtful and eloquent, controversialist.

Roddie retired in 1987 aged 58.  Always a very private person and difficult to get close to, he shared his thoughts and decisions only with those who needed to know them; and almost unnoticed he cleared his office over a week-end and went abroad where he had developed interests and forged contacts, first as visiting professor to the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1998-90) and then as Deputy Medical Director (1991-4) and Director of Medical Education (1990-4) at the King Khalid National Guard Hospital, Jeddah.  Acting through consultancies with the World Bank (Washington), and the Asian Development Bank (Manila), and other agencies and governments, he advised on medical school and cognate developments in reputedly some 30 countries as diverse as Guatemala, Vietnam, Poland and South Africa.  He was appointed CBE in 1987.

Roddie’s extra-mural interests are listed in the Medical Directory as “reading, writing and travel”: this seems about right but could be qualified by adding “confined mainly to medical and associated matters”.  In retirement, however, he devoted much of his time to research into his own family history which lead to the publication of detailed and affectionate accounts of the two families drawn together by his parents’ marriage, the Wilsons of Straid, Co. Antrim, and the Roddies of Binroe, Co Donegal.  He had also served in the T & AVR (1951-68) retiring as OC Medical Sub-Unit, Queens’ University, to the rank of Major; was a member of several local committees associated with civil defence and advising on biological engineering; and was President of the Belfast Association of University Teachers (1974-6).  His first wife died leaving one son and three daughters, he had one son and one daughter by his second wife (marriage dissolved), and he married his third wife on his retirement in 1987.

Peter Froggatt | Mary Roddie | William Wallace


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