Professor Ian Donald, Regius Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Glasgow, accepted our invitation to become Honorary President of the 1952 Beta Club.
A medical pioneer of international standing Professor Donald was a charismatic, charming, lively and entertaining individual, an enthusiastic sailor and gifted painter. He was popular amongst the student body and took a personal interest in the activities of the Club from the time of the Final Year Dinners in 1958 through to the Club’s 25th Year Reunion in 1983. On the latter occasion, at the age of 73, he gave a paper on the development of ultrasound in medicine during the Scientific Session and was one of the speakers at the Gala Dinner.
Professor Donald (1910 – 1987) is perhaps best remembered as the pioneer of ultrasonography in obstetrics. However, he was a ‘man of many parts’ and further details of his life and massive contributions to medicine may be viewed here.
Anecdotes about Professor Donald abound. The present writer, whilst a junior surgeon-in-training, had the pleasure and privilege of interacting with Professor Donald at both professional and personal levels. Research collaboration involved exploration of the potential benefits of hyperbaric oxygenation in placental insufficiency – Professor Donald personally conducted the studies in the pressure chamber at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow. At a personal level Professor Donald carried out one of the first ever ultrasound investigations on the writer’s wife whilst in labour – see the relevant image here (taken in 1963 and subsequently published); in spite of the findings, the outcome was, happily, favourable. The final and most challenging interaction took place in the operating theatre when Professor Donald underwent emergency cardiac surgery and intensive care – an experience he subsequently documented in characteristically humorous fashion in the Lancet; again, mercifully, the eventual outcome was successful and our patient made a full recovery. Memorable interactions which gave much insight into the man and what made him tick.
Ian Donald was a truly inspiring human being and one who undoubtedly had a very considerable impact on the life and careers of many of us in medicine and on the wider stage.