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 18 August 2022

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Photo of <div style=fiogf49gjkf0dDeidre Kelly" align="left">


Dr Deirdre Kelly is a consultant pediatric hepatologist at the Liver Unit of Birmingham Children's Hospital and Reader in Paediatric Hepatology at the University of Birmingham.

She was born and brought up in Calcutta, India, in the post-Raj era while her father was working for Lipton's Tea. She spent her early childhood in India and went to boarding school in Dublin when she was 12 years old. She first decided to become a doctor at the age of 8 and despite much opposition from family and nuns at her convent school, persisted and went to Trinity College Dublin to study medicine in 1967.

She originally planned to be a General Practitioner but in her Senior House Officer days was encouraged to take an academic line and apply for General Medicine rotations and take the membership exams. She trained first in adult medicine, and then in gastroenterology and hepatology in Dublin with Professor Donald Weir who encouraged her to do an MD thesis on folate catabolism with Professor John Scott, a world authority on folate metabolism.

While in Dublin she had her two delightful sons while juggling research/academic medicine/clinical practice and discovered the joys of being a mother.

In 1982, she moved to London to work with Dame Sheila Sherlock at the Royal Free Hospital, where she became interested in pediatric hepatology. Dr Kelly retrained in pediatrics with Professor Otto Wolff at Great Ormond Street and Professor John Walker Smith at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hackney.

In 1987 she went to work as an Assistant Professor in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Nebraska in Omaha US.

Dr Kelly used this time to learn about caring for children undergoing liver transplantation. Equipped with these new skills she returned to Birmingham in 1989 to set up a National Liver Unit to care for children with liver disease and undergoing liver transplantation.

The Unit has been very successful and is one of the busiest pediatric liver transplant programmes with survival rates of > 90%. Dr Kelly now has three other consultant colleagues and a team of junior doctors, research fellows, specialist nurses and other valuable members of the multidisciplinary team.

They have achieved international standards for care of children with liver disease and liver transplantation and currently are the only unit in the UK to provide small bowel transplantation for children.

They have expanded their research programme to look at mechanisms which control the development of biliary epithelial cells, the underlying mechanisms for the pathophysiology of malnutrition in children with liver disease and the natural history and management of chronic viral hepatitis in childhood. They have a major interest in the outcome and quality of life following transplantation.

Dr Kelly lives in Birmingham with her second husband, Sir Ian Byatt, and two sons, one of whom is spending a year in India teaching English before joining the Government Economic Service while the other is at University studying politics. Neither have been stimulated to do medicine!

What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist/hepatologist?
In 1976 I got the opportunity to be a Research Fellow in Gastroenterology to carry out an MD in folate catabolism with Professor Donald Weir. I enjoyed the challenge of learning about endoscopy and gastrointestinal problems in general and decided to make my career in that area.
Who was the teacher you admired the most?
I most admired Professor Dame Sheila Sherlock at the Royal Free. She is a formidable woman, and is one of the best diagnostic physicians I have ever worked with. She never forgot a person and always remembered a personal detail about them, which pleased them enormously. She had incredibly high standards for herself and for her staff, which I have continued in my own practice.
What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
I think it is really important to realise that one is always learning and one can always do better.
What is your unfulfilled ambition?
When I was 8 years old I made the biggest career decision of my life which was to be either a doctor or a ballet dancer. As my Irish boarding school did not provide ballet classes I had no option but to become a doctor.
What is your greatest regret?
I would have liked to have spent more time with my children when they were growing up.
How do you relax?
My great relaxation is being with my husband and sharing things we like to do together such as gardening, hill walking and spending weekends exploring Europe.
What is your favorite sport?
My favourite sport is swimming.
What is your best place in the world?
My best place in the world is the west of Ireland on a wet day with the wind and the rain blowing in my face.
What is your favorite film?
My favourite film is Chariots of Fire because I felt it showed the gratifying results of training for important events and succeeding.
What car do you drive?
I drive an Audi A4 estate.
What are your future plans?
My future plans are to continue to establish pediatric liver disease as a major agenda item in the context of children's health, not only in Britain, but throughout the world.
What is your best electronic 'toy'?
My best electronic toy is my Psion series 5 (when it works).
What book are you reading at the moment?
I have just completed reading Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel. A very powerful book demonstrating how blind the traditional authorities can be when faced with innovative science.
Why did you get in involved in
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