Professor Henry Halliday

James Spence Medallist


James Spence Medal winner 2021

Henry Halliday was an outstanding neonatologist who made contributions to the care of newborn babies throughout the world. Following qualification in Belfast, he trained in Belfast and three US centres returning to establish a network of neonatal care for Northern Ireland. He was a pioneer of surfactant therapy helping to develop a natural product with colleagues in Stockholm. He designed and ran the clinical trials which proved its effectiveness and it is now the standard of treatment worldwide.

He was a firm advocate of evidence-based medicine and carried out his first randomised controlled trial in 1973. He led and was involved in many Cochrane collaborations setting the standard of care for newborns. 

His research interests included acute neonatal respiratory disorders and surfactant replacement; postnatal steroids (inhaled and systemic) to prevent chronic lung disease (CLD); pathogenesis of CLD and inflammation; iron metabolism in the foetus and neonate and long term follow-up of survivors of CLD. He successfully coordinated two of the largest neonatal multicentre trials with 24-hour telephone randomisation in Belfast, underook systematic reviews and was European coordinator of the Cochrane Neonatal Group.

Less obvious was his work on data monitoring of international trials and ethics research. He was an excellent, caring, innovative clinician and a true clinician scientist. From his first paper in 1974 to 2019 he published 438 full papers. Fifty-two of his papers have been cited more than 100 times and one more than 3,000 times. He had an H index of 69 and i10 index of 211 which is outstanding for a clinician. His papers have been cited 24,089 times. He was highly regarded across Europe and the world for his outstanding research. 

He inspired a younger generation...and he demonstrated that absolute scientific rigour and humanity can go together.

In 2004, he became joint founding editor of Biology of the Neonate (now Neonatology). He was in huge demand for guest and named lectures on a regular and ongoing basis all over the world and as a grant reviewer for major charities and Government Departments. He was a member of many international societies and was President of the European Society for Paediatric Research and the Irish and American Pediatric Society. He inspired a younger generation who know that his work has been done solely to improve the care of babies and he demonstrated that absolute scientific rigour and humanity can go together.

His international profile, awards and scientific achievements did not alter his modest, kindly and gentle affect. He led the transition from neonatal care being something of a novelty to being an established evidence-based discipline. There can be few international figures in neonatology who do not know of his contribution. He was the first James Spence Medal winner from Northern Ireland.