Emeritus Professor Richard H. R. White

James Spence Medallist

Year James Spence Medal awarded: 1995

Dick White began his early training in a variety of posts around London and the South West following studying at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Guy's Hospital Medical School in London. His paediatric training was mainly at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street and at Guy's Hospital, where he developed a new biopsy method and percutaneous needle for children requiring liver biopsy. His career centred around making sure biopsy material has been subject to the most advanced investigation, and developing particular techniques, including immunofluorescence, electron microscopy, and glomerular morphometry.

He was awarded the James Spence Medal, however, for his contribution to paediatric Nephrology. When he began researching renal disease, there was no specialty of paediatric nephrology in the UK so Professor White learned the techniques of renal biopsy from adult patients and Hugh de Wardener, before moving onto children. He pioneered a percutaneous renal biopsy technique which could be used with local anaesthetic.

White spent time in Kampala, Uganda before returning to Guy’s Hospital where he and Stewart Cameron conducted a clinicopathological study of children with nephrotic syndrome, which led to the International Study of Kidney Disease in Children, led by Henry Barnett.

He was invited to become senior lecturer in Birmingham Children’s Hospital, which became an important centre for children with kidney problems. He made sure there were appropriate child and family oriented services, and after years of planning, the new Birmingham Children's Hospital Renal Unit was opened in 1991.

White’s notable research contributions were in the pathology of glomerular disease and he was appointed as one of the four renal pathology assessors for the International Study of Kidney Disease in Children. He was known for using modern histological techniques and was honoured with the title of Professor of Paediatric Nephrology from the University of Birmingham. He helped to found the British Association for Paediatric Nephrology and was elected their first president.

Professor Richard White was recommended for the Medal for his carefulness, scientific integrity, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail in any research and for being a great ambassador for paediatric research and medicine, and a notable teacher.