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Obituary: Dr Roger Quin, prominent vascular and thyroid surgeon who developed invaluable patient-data systems

ROGER Quin, who has died aged 78, was a leading vascular and thyroid surgeon who was innovative in various aspects of surgery and latterly instrumental in developing patient data systems.

He and his younger brother, Leslie, were brought up in a traditional tenement flat in Shawlands. He attended Hutchesons’ Grammar School where he claimed to be “moderately studious” (though his results suggest this was more an example of his humility than his academic prowess). He was a member of the Sea Scouts, which led to a lifelong love of sailing.

He was offered a place at Glasgow University to study medicine and was awarded a bursary which, given his cautiousness in later life, he surprisingly spent on a car – something which would also prove to be a passion in later life. He was invited to combine the traditional six-year medicine course with an extra year to also complete a BSc.

University summer holidays were the start of a lifetime of adventures. He spent two summers on the West Coast of Scotland aboard Seewolf, a large ketch, the first year as a deckhand and the second as the captain. The following two years were spent working and travelling across North America with his great friend, Clem Imrie.

He graduated in 1967 with commendation and his first job was at the Victoria Infirmary, where he met a young doctor, Jennifer Aitken. They were engaged on her birthday in 1968 and married a year later on September 4. As they were Glasgow University graduates the wedding was held in the University Chapel. The honeymoon was on a tiny yacht on the west coast, in typical wet and windy weather but this did not dampen their enthusiasm for sailing.

Their daughter, Adrienne, was born in 1972, followed by Jonathan in 1974, the latter while Roger was working in Leicester Royal Infirmary under Professor Peter Bell.

In 1977 the family returned to their home city, where Roger was appointed Consultant General and Vascular Surgeon at the Western Infirmary and Gartnavel General Hospital. He loved his consultant role; the surgery, patient care, teaching and mentoring more junior doctors.

He was awarded a James IV Travelling Fellowship and toured the US lecturing and learning about vascular developments around America and Canada. After his return, he used this knowledge to set up a vascular laboratory at Gartnavel.

The grateful father of a patient organised various fundraising events to purchase innovative new ultrasound equipment from a developer Roger had visited in the US. With this equipment and collaboration with clinical physics, a practice for arterial disease was established, later taking on thyroid and parathyroid surgery. At its peak he was doing the highest number of carotid procedures nationally.

He latterly became Clinical Director for the West of Scotland.

Roger always had a keen interest in medical informatics, and he instigated the development of a computerised electronic patient record and reporting system for the Department of Surgery, which was later extended to other departments. In conjunction with this, he expanded the clinical coding system to allow greater flexibility in the recording of patient diagnostic data and this coding system is still in use across the Health Board.

In 2000 a deteriorating eye condition forced a change of direction from surgery solely to medical informatics. His particular focus was on developing a clinical portal to allow patient data to be integrated and viewed throughout the hospital, and in relation to this he studied for, and was awarded, an MPhil in medical law and ethics. He later joined a team developing a clinical portal to be used across the Health Board.

He continued with this work on a part-time basis after he formally retired in 2007 at the age of 65. With further characteristic humility it was only after his death that his family learned of the important part he played in this role.

He had four grandchildren (Christopher, Beatrice, Nicholas and Claudia), whom he adored and of whom he was immensely proud. He was always happy to take part in any of their games and to take his turn on the zip-wire on the Isle of Mull.

Retirement allowed more time for his and Jennifer’s interest in music and theatre, and they regularly attended orchestral and choral concerts and plays. An interest in opera developed, which led to many trips to opera festivals in the UK and abroad. They rarely had a night at home.

With his usual determination to overcome challenges, he also took up painting and continued to do country dancing despite being registered blind. On one country dancing weekend he played golf in a group including his brother and, with borrowed clubs, he hit a six iron and holed in one at the second hole at Prestwick, despite not having played for many years. The Senior Professional insisted on buying him a drink.

Unfortunately, Jennifer developed dementia in 2013 and he looked after her until his death with compassion, respect and incredible patience as that started to take hold. Sadly, he, too, was diagnosed with Dementia (Lewy Bodies Dementia) in January 2020.

He was extremely kind and altruistic, occasionally having to be reined in for helping too many other people. He simply never complained. He was never happier than when sailing, or when surrounded by friends and family.

He collected a great number of friends throughout his life – from school, sea scouts, university, sailing, painting and country dancing, colleagues and neighbours from everywhere they lived. His was a life lived to the full – “Carpe Diem”, as he used to say.

Roger is survived by his wife, his two children and four grandchildren. In his memory, his family have set-up the Roger Quin Breakthrough Fund through Alzheimer’s Research UK to fund the chemistry team at the UCL Drug Discovery Institute and also the Clinical Hub fellows at the Early Detection of Neurodegenerative Diseases initiative.

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