Honorary member: Dr Gordon Drummond

Honorary member: Dr Gordon Drummond

Dr Gordon Drummond, of the University of Edinburgh, UK, is one of this year’s recipients of an ESA Honorary Membership. Here we find out some of the highlights of Gordon’s career.

Q: Gordon, congratulations on your Honorary Membership. Please tell us how you felt when you found out about your nomination.

A: I was honoured and delighted, of course.

Q: You studied in both Cambridge and Edinburgh, and spent a short time working in respiratory medicine before moving to anaesthesia. Where were you working when you made this change, and why did you change?

A It wasn’t a change: it was sort of part of the plan! I wanted to do anaesthesia but realised that a good grounding in respiratory medicine would help – and I found it was an enormous advantage, to have a basic understanding of respiratory physiology.

Q: How different was the field of anaesthesia then, and what would you say have been the most important developments in the field throughout your career.

A: Very different: but having some basic understanding helped. The drugs have got better, but the big change is in monitoring. When I started, we had to ask to have the department ECG if we had a difficult case!

Q: In 1995, you moved to the University of Edinburgh and did clinical work, teaching and research until your retirement in 2010. Tell us some of the research you have been involved in, and are still involved in today.

A: My research is mainly to do with breathing -there’s a lot that can be done with simple measurements and careful experimental design. We sometimes made our own apparatus! I borrowed an aircraft stereo photograph system for one experiment. Working with scientists in other disciplines was always rewarding. I’ve always been interested in how important the abdomen is in breathing, particularly during anaesthesia. Nowadays I am working with colleagues in informatics, and finding that breathing is far more complex than most people think – there are an enormous number of “simple explanations” that are wrong!

Q: You have been involved in the ESA since its inception in 1993, working on various committees, and chairing the Scientific Committee from 2002 to 2005. Tell us how you have seen the organisation evolve over the past three decades.

A: I think the big change was introducing research methods and scientific rigour as a valid endeavour: we should set the highest standards, and educate and encourage young researchers to think for themselves. The biggest challenge is stopping the “do as the Romans do” process: especially in statistics!

Q: You have been an editor of the British Journal of Anaesthesia and an editor and board member of the Journal of Physiology. How difficult is it to distinguish a ‘good’ paper from the many that you saw during those positions?

A: It is actually very easy: good research stands out. Clear and original thinking is quite rare: what’s more important is spotting and developing the good stuff that may be lurking in the rest.


Thank you Gordon, congratulations on your Honorary Membership.