Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Dr Nick Hall, known nationally and internationally for his academic research in inflammatory arthritis and locally for his leadership of two important local charities.
Nick Hall’s career in Bath began as a post-doctoral research fellow in 1974; he was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology in 1976 and retired as Reader in Immunology after 35 years in 2007. He supervised 24 PhD students and published 75 research papers in the area of immune cell activation and regulation and its relevance to rheumatic disorders affecting bone and joints such arthritis. He was awarded significant research funding that helped develop the foundations of research into rheumatic diseases in Bath that is still a strength to this day. He served on the Executive Council of the British Society for Rheumatology and on the Editorial Board of the British Journal of Rheumatology. Dr Hall was an excellent and popular member of staff, helping to train several generations of pharmacists and pharmacologists, and serving as a highly effective Director of Undergraduate Studies and was a member of the Department’s senior management team for many years A major highlight of Nicks’ academic career was his role in developing the Bath Institute for Rheumatic Disease, affectionately known by the acronym BIRD, where he became Chair in 1998 and only recently stepped down from this role. In 1975, BIRD was established as a joint venture between the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases and the University of Bath to bring together research scientists and clinicians to promote understanding of the mechanisms underlying rheumatic diseases and thus improve treatment for patients. BIRD became a registered charity in 1981 and raised funds to buy and refurbish its own building in the centre of Bath. The BIRD building housed research labs and a serology lab developing novel autoantibody test systems. Nick was intimately involved in the fund-raising campaign to buy the building in Trim Bridge, playing a leading role in project formulation and writing, visiting sponsors and speaking to potential donors.
To date, BIRD has trained more than 25 PhD students, 20 clinical research fellows and 10 post-doctoral research assistants and was involved in the development of anti-TNF therapy, one of the treatments for patients with severe arthritic diseases.
Nick’s links to the University and his sustained dedication to ensuring the success of BIRD as an active local charity has facilitated funding of these important BIRD-funded projects that have impacted on the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of disease. The activities of BIRD are enhanced by active patient, family and carer engagement. Nick has championed the popular disease-specific information days delivered by experts in the field and launch of the Patient and Public Engagement initiative in 2016. Today, BIRD remains a vibrant local charity working to improve treatment for patients with rheumatic diseases.
Remarkably, Nick’s contributions to the local community extend well beyond his BIRD activities. For example, Nick is also current Chair of the Trustees for the award winning Radstock Museum, dedicated to recognising the work of the Somerset miners and their contribution to Britain’s heritage.
In summary, Nick’s contributions to understanding and combating rheumatic diseases and engagement with the local community through his work with BIRD over 40 plus years is unmatched. His efforts have made a major impact on ensuring that Bath has flourished as an independent research and education centre for bone and joint diseases.
For an outstanding contribution to rheumatology, Chancellor, I present Nick Hall as eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of the University, honoris causa.