It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Professor Chris Pennington in May 2002.
Professor Chris Pennington was the only son of a Welsh Methodist Minister and he grew up in Wales and the West Country. He studied medicine at the University of Manchester, graduating in 1970 followed by an MD in 1977. In the meantime he gained his MRCP (UK) in 1972. He became an FRCP (Edinburgh) in 1983 and was elected FRCP (London) in 1993.
His early career encompassed junior jobs in Manchester, Dundee and Aberdeen. He returned to Dundee in 1979 to become Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist. He became Professor of Medicine in 1998.
During a very active career he held many different posts including Clinical Group Director for Medicine in the Tayside University Hospitals Trust. He did this extremely well during a period of great organisational change - being feared by a few, loved by many and respected by all. He has also been a long time member of the British Society of Gastroenterology and the Nutrition Society. Most recently he has served as Chairman of the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.
Widely Sought After
Chris had a wide range of professional interests including the management of inflammatory bowel disease, the management of disease related malnutrition and the use of artificial nutritional support. Most recently he has been key in establishing the Managed Clinical Network for patients on Home Parenteral Nutrition in Scotland.
He has published extensively in all these areas and has contributed to several seminal textbooks. His research interests were also varied and he focused increasingly on disease-related malnutrition in the elderly and small bowel ecology.
One of his major talents lay in teaching and lecturing - he was a widely sought-after guest speaker and his presentations epitomised clarity and comprehensibility. Although highly critical of his own abilities, he revelled in sharing information and he had particular skills in encouraging others to contribute to a discussion.
Chris demanded a great deal from his colleagues - but far less than he was prepared to contribute himself. He valued all equally, regardless of status and, despite his significant achievements, he retained an inquisitive mind, an unshakeable belief in the truth, an impish sense of humour and fundamental humility. These qualities generated enormous respect and admiration from everyone who had the good fortune to work with him.
Outside work, Chris and his wife enjoyed good holidays, most particularly the time they spent in Africa. He played tennis vigorously at local club level and had an extensive knowledge of steam engines. The last few months of his illness were lightened by his interest in photography and his passion for listening to classical music.
Chris and BAPEN
Chris joined BAPEN Council in 1996 and he was immediately asked to lead a group tasked with identifying current best practice in the provision of parenteral nutrition.
This report was widely welcomed and was so successful that it is, currently, being updated. In the intervening years Chris has taken part in a variety of BAPEN initiatives ranging from teaching on courses to participating in workshops.
A significant contributor
His contributions to BAPEN have been consistent and significant. It came, then, as no surprise when he was asked to take responsibility, on behalf of BAPEN, for organising the forthcoming ESPEN Congress in Glasgow. He threw himself wholeheartedly into this enormous task thereby gaining respect and admiration from his new European colleagues as well as those with whom he has been working.
He has described the objectives for the Congress and single-mindedly pursued them. The predicted success of the meeting will be largely due to him.
Multi-professional working has been second nature to Chris and he has constantly supported the non-medical professions in their quest to have their expertise equally acknowledged in the field of clinical nutrition. His input has ranged from guest lectures and teaching sessions to advising on potential publications, supporting multi-professional research projects and acting as a mentor whenever necessary.
Valuing all voices
Reconciling the differing agendas is difficult. Chris recognised the importance of other points of view and ensured that all voices were equally valued around the Council table thereby consolidating relationships of mutual respect. This, in turn, is leading to a more co-ordinated and consistent approach to raising awareness about the importance of nutrition in the management of disease.
Chris was a key player in taking these messages into a wider arena. He was frequently invited to lecture at several of the Royal Colleges and he was able to share the work that was started within BAPEN. This was a source of pride to him and he never failed to publicise BAPEN whenever an opportunity arose.
Not surprisingly his main focus has always been "the patient" and his clinical practice has reflected this. There have been many occasions when he reminded us that high-powered research activity or organisational restructuring must result in improved patient care.
He always worked closely with patients and stood firm in his belief that they have the right to a voice which needs to be considered throughout the decision making process. He considered himself privileged to have been invited to the annual PINNT party and frequently shared what he had learned there.
A sure, yet firm touch
Without doubt, Chris’ greatest contribution to BAPEN has been as our Chairman. He opened the debate on some of the serious strategic challenges we face as an organisation and he has presided over the beginning of a period of significant change. He guided complex negotiations with a sure yet firm touch.
He provided support and reassurance when things have become difficult - and he led the celebrations of our successes. Those of us who were in Harrogate for the Annual Meeting last year were well aware of his pride in our success, which was particularly celebrated at the 10th Annual Dinner.
A great loss
BAPEN as well as the field of Clinical Nutrition has lost a leader with vision, a colleague with compassion, a mentor with time and a friend who cared. Chris died on the 20th May 2002. He will be greatly missed and our sympathy is extended to his family.