Paul A. Bacon, MD, professor emeritus of the University of Birmingham’s Department of Rheumatology, died on Jan. 5, 2018. The news of his passing saddened those who had the good fortune to know and collaborate with him. He was admired for his indefatigable dedication to measurement in rheumatic disease, especially vasculitis, as well as to collaborations across disciplines and to new ventures.
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Upon hearing the news, Philip Seo, MD, director of The Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and the physician editor of The Rheumatologist, commented, “Paul Bacon was responsible for creating many of the early measurement instruments in lupus and vasculitis. In clinical trials of vasculitis in particular, the challenge is always how to prove that one intervention is better than another. Paul Bacon basically invented the yardstick.”
In 2010, The Rheumatologist ran a profile on Dr. Bacon. He told us that choosing medicine meant that he became “the black sheep of the family,” because he broke with family tradition to do so. Both his grandfather and father were actuaries. Encouraged by “an extremely good biology master” at his Quaker school, the young Dr. Bacon sat for the Cambridge entrance exams, was accepted, and then did his clinical studies at the “ancient” hospital of St. Bartholomew, founded in 1123.
From 1965 to 1968, Dr. Bacon was a research fellow/registrar at the newly established Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London. He received an Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC) Copeman Traveling Fellowship to spend a year with Carl Pearson, MD’s rheumatology group at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He then returned to England to become a consultant rheumatologist at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath.
Some of Dr. Bacon’s career highlights:
1966–Research fellow and registrar at Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology;
1969–Senior registrar at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital;
1971–Research fellow in rheumatology at UCLA;
1972–Consultant rheumatologist at Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath and Southmead Hospital in Bristol;
1981–ARC chair and head of rheumatology at the University of Birmingham;
1988–Sabbatical year at the NIH; and
2001–Professor of rheumatology at the University of Birmingham.
By 1981, he had established himself as a leading immunology researcher. Dr. Bacon’s career was marked by many accomplishments—among them, founding the world-leading Department of Rheumatology at the University of Birmingham, said Professor David Adams, pro-vice chancellor and head of College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.