General Practice/Primary Care
Designatory Letters: 
MB Edin 1944, MRCP Edin 1946, DPH Glasg 1948, MD Edin 1953, PhD Aberd 1956, FRCP Edin 1956

With the death of Ian Richardson Medicine, and General Practice in particular, has lost one of it’s sharpest brains – always astute and analytical. He was a pioneer who lived to see many of his ideas not only adopted but found eminently useful but he lived in difficult times. When he would have been a builder he often found himself having to cut services and put his ideas on the shelf for better days.

He qualified from Edinburgh with honours and might have been a surgeon had it not been for a severe skin allergy. Instead he went into industrial and public health medicine, serving as a lecturer in Aberdeen but even in those early days his fascination with, and commitment to, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching were apparent. In 1966 when a Department of General Practice was opened in Aberdeen he was appointed Reader, somewhat to the surprise of many GPs who did not regard him as a “ real GP”. He proved them wrong.

In 1970 he became professor of general practice, using GPs from outwith Aberdeen as well as local doctors to staff it in the grounds of Foresterhill teaching hospital – a symbolic situation demonstrating the symbiosis between academic medicine and family medicine. His research interests ranged from the length of consultations to the workloads of community nurses and health visitors, his lectures and tutorials always finely honed and inspirational.

Eleven years later he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in Aberdeen but that coincided with a period of unprecedented cuts, his major decisions all related to austerity, cuts, and moth-balling of long-planned developments. The disappointments and frustration must have been painful for him.

Nevertheless he channelled his energies into the Royal College of General Practitioners, its examinations and opportunities for research and, notably, the careers of younger doctors working alongside him. He was popular and highly esteemed. Retirement saw him working as a JP, enjoying his golf an every opportunity to help others. He may not have started out to be a GP but his life was nevertheless dedicated to his patients, their families and to their doctors who became outstanding GPs. He was a friend to thousands.