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Issue 474, 3 December 2001

Professor Michael Dixon

Mike Dixon qualified with the degrees of MB ChB from Edinburgh University in 1965. Following house officer appointments in Edinburgh and close to his old home in Manchester, he returned to Scotland to train in Pathology. He was appointed lecturer at Edinburgh University in 1968 and embarked on his academic career. It was at this time that two patients in Edinburgh were reported with Paracetamol-induced liver damage; this generated his interest in research and a lifelong involvement in quantitation in Pathology. In 1970, following an enforced move because of personal circumstances, he joined the Department of Pathology in Leeds as a lecturer. In 1972 he obtained membership of the Royal College of Pathologists and set about creating the speciality of Gastrointestinal Pathology in Leeds. In 1975 he started the weekly Gastrointestinal Pathology meetings which superbly educated not only the pathology trainees but also a generation of Gastroenterologists and Surgeons in the importance of his subject. Many a research project was started on the basis of the multi-disciplinary clinical discussions leading to the question why? In 1997 he was appointed Honorary Consultant to Leeds General Infirmary. In 1980 he was awarded his MD from Edinburgh University on observations on human and experimental Paracetamol overdosage. This was the first use of image analysis in the study of liver damage and demonstrated a direct relationship between liver enzymes and the amount of liver damage.

As a Senior Lecturer, Mike developed into an international authority in Gastrointestinal Pathology and widened his research experience. Among his many notable research achievements were the introduction of Kappa statistics into pathology, the description of the pathological and biological changes in inflammatory bowel disease, the description of the safety of anal preservation in low rectal cancer and the importance of the circumferential margin in rectal cancer. The latter has directly contributed to an improvement in five year survival in rectal cancer by 20 per cent in Scandinavia and Holland. His biggest contribution is in the field of gastritis. With Professor Axon he described the condition of biliary gastritis and extended these observations to chemical induced gastritis. He has played a major role in increasing our understanding of the importance of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastric diseases. Specifically, he first predicted the importance of local acid production in determining the pattern of gastritis in H. pylori infections and has shed light on both the human disease and animal models of H. pylori induced gastric lymphoma. Mike's extraordinary histopathological skills, his diplomacy and presence led to him playing a major role in the creation and development of the Sydney classification of gastritis which was immediately accepted world-wide.

Mike's outstanding scholarship has led to three successful books and 238 publications, many of them in the cream of international journals. He is the only British histopathologist to be elected a member of the American Gastroenterologists Association and as well as chairing the Histopathology group of the British Society of Gastroenterology, he delivered the Basil Morson Lecture, the highest honour that can be bestowed on a British GI pathologist.

Mike will be remembered by the National Health Service in Leeds as the Father of Leeds Gastrointestinal Pathology. He not only bore a very heavy service load for many years, he ran the diagnostic service with great skill and trained at least six nationally and internationally recognised gastrointestinal pathologists. He set a very high standard and by doing so inspired many of the training pathologists.

Mike was an excellent lecturer, both to undergraduates and postgraduates, and every talk held unusual surprises. His lecture on 'how not to lecture' was a masterpiece. His book on 'Aids to Pathology' was a standard undergraduate text and he now contributes the Gastrointestinal Pathology chapter to the standard British undergraduate textbook.

It has been a privilege for members of the Department to work with Mike over the last thirty-one years. He is universally respected by all colleagues and we wish him a long and happy retirement.

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