Obituaries

James Colquhoun PetriePatrick David WallSir William Ferguson AndersonDenys Elwyn HowellsRonald Herbert JonesRubi Alexandra Koyotsu PadiWilliam Patrick Reynish

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7313.636 (Published 15 September 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:636

James Colquhoun Petrie


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Professor of clinical pharmacology University of Aberdeen and honorary consultant physician Grampian University Hospitals NHS Trust (b Aberdeen 1941; q Aberdeen 1964; CBE, DSc, FRSE), died from a brain tumour on 31 August 2001.

Many might consider it self evident that medical treatment should be delivered according to guidelines developed from the best available research evidence. Jim Petrie coined the phrase “GOBSAT”—“Good Old Boys Sat Around the Table”—to describe the process by which many guidelines are in fact developed. As founding chairman of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN), and later as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1997-2001), he fostered the development of more than 50 clinical guidelines of a quite different nature in diverse medical fields. At the time of his death, he was chairing expert groups on best practice for guideline development for both the Council of Europe and the World Health Organization.

He urged doctors and other healthcare professionals to consider services from the user's perspective—“the journey of care”—and to take responsibility for continuous improvement. In his initial approach to a new challenge, he instinctively disregarded the way something had always been done. He was an inspiring teacher, and his students were rather in awe of him. They generally made sure that they bought his textbooks.

Just after graduation in 1964, he married Xanthe, who, recognising his leadership tendencies, made him promise never to become prime minister. He was appointed professor of clinical pharmacology in Aberdeen in 1985 and became head of the merged departments of medicine and therapeutics in 1994. He was codirector of the Scottish Health Services Research Unit from 1986.

At the time of his first senior appointment in clinical pharmacology at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in 1970, he was, at 29 years, the youngest senior lecturer and honorary consultant physician …

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