Philip Lee

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 29 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5664
  1. Roz Lee,
  2. James Leonard

Philip Lee, who died at the early age of 48, was a gifted physician who linked paediatrics and adult care for patients with inherited metabolic disorders. He qualified at Nottingham with honours in 1986, and after his preregistration year he joined a rotation in paediatrics in Cardiff. He had his first taste of research as a registrar in nephrology in Cardiff, after which he moved to the paediatric unit at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.

He then did the Merseyside paediatric registrar rotation, and it was during one post with Campbell Davidson that he was first exposed to children with inborn errors of metabolism. From there he moved to a research post at the Hospital for Sick Children, studying patients with glycogen storage disease, which remained a major interest. At the end of this post he wrote his MD thesis in just three months to meet a critical deadline caused by a change in the regulations. He followed this with a lecturer’s post at St George’s Hospital in London and a senior registrar appointment on the metabolic unit at the Hospital for Sick Children. He was appointed a consultant and senior lecturer in metabolic medicine at University College Hospital in London in 1997, after the retirement of David Brenton. This was an inspired appointment, and Philip immediately set about enlarging the unit with appointments of nursing and dietetic staff. The unit was named after Charles Dent, one of the key figures in the history of metabolic medicine, who worked at UCLH.

Once established, the workload of the unit expanded rapidly, with patients being referred from far and wide. Philip continued to run a clinic at the Hospital Sick Children that was particularly valuable since it allowed a smooth transfer of patients from paediatric to adult care. This transition, rather like going from primary to secondary school, is not a simple matter. The expectations and organisation of an adult clinic are different, and families often find it difficult to adapt when their whole life has been devoted to the care of a child with a complex disorder. Eventually a second consultant was appointed to help. Despite the workload Philip had managed to obtain research grants to the value of £2.5m, and he published more than 100 papers. He was constantly in demand as a lecturer to discuss inborn errors in adults, and the transition from paediatrics to adult care. His advice was sought from all over the world and he contributed to many collaborative studies. In 2006 he was made reader.

His brilliant career was cut short by the discovery of a malignancy in 2008, and he took early retirement to spend time with his family. However, he did much better than predicted. During this time he became involved with the food and nutrition group of the charity Help the Hospices and gave many lectures to professionals and patient groups, giving his perspective as both a doctor and a patient, in order to try and raise awareness of the role of nutrition in palliative care.

Philip had many interests outside medicine. He almost always seemed have a camera in his hand at conferences. He was a lifelong Chelsea FC fan and established a local youth team in 2006, which has become a very successful club with 21 squads. He qualified as a football referee, and after his retirement playing bridge became his passion.

Philip faced his illness with an inspiring courage and acceptance that impressed everyone around him and did not preclude a strong determination to try all the available treatments offered. The open, collaborative approach that characterised him as a physician also informed his journey as a patient, and those who cared for him in his final three years were touched to have known him.

He leaves his wife, Roz, and their two teenage children.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5664


  • Former consultant metabolic physician University of London College Hospitals (b 1963; q Nottingham 1986; DM, FRCP, FRCPCH), died from lung cancer on 18 August 2011.

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