CLDF has always worked hand in hand with medical specialists to ensure the best outcomes for our children and young people. Here Dr Pat McKiernan, who was closely associated with us for many years, tells what the charity means to him.
In this rapidly changing world what an amazing achievement it is for CLDF to celebrate 40 years as the only UK charity fighting all childhood liver diseases. I have been very proud to be associated with the CLDF for 30 of those years.
I first became interested in liver disease as a trainee pediatrician in the late 1980’s while working with Dr John Glasgow in Belfast. The first scientific meeting I attended was a CLDF scientific meeting held in Birmingham in 1990. This opened my eyes, and I was hooked. Among the speakers was Dr Deirdre Kelly who had just opened the Liver unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and who became a great role model.
The next year I moved to Birmingham as a research fellow to work with Dr Kelly. One of the early projects I was involved with was the BPSU study of biliary atresia, which was funded by CLDF. At that time, I did not realise just how impactful this study was to be. We subsequently showed that the outcome of children with biliary atresia was much better in more experienced centres. This data, supported by informed lobbying by CLDF, led the department of health to restrict surgery for biliary atresia to three specialist children’s liver units in England and Wales in 1999. This national strategy has proven to be a long term success and has since been replicated in many countries and envied in others.
As a consultant paediatric hepatologist, I continued to work with CLDF in areas of education, research and clinical practice. One of their important achievements was providing support to children and families attending specialist hospitals whether as in-patients or out-patients. When we were able to develop outreach services with regional centres around the country, CLDF were also there to support children and families closer to home. While we always worked closely and collaborated with CLDF, their team maintained their professional independence from our clinical services and ensured patient and family interests were first and foremost.
One of my proudest career moments was when I was asked to be CLDF Honorary medical director in 2007. This was a huge honour for me, following such illustrious figures as Stuart Tanner and Ted Howard. In this role I gained insight into just how effective the CLDF was, not only at fundraising, but punching above its weight to raise the profile of children’s liver diseases and of family support organisations at national and international level. This did not happen by accident but reflects the vision and drive of both chief executives the CLDF has been lucky to have.
Dr McKiernan spoke at several CLDF conferences
This was not all hard work! I also had the opportunity to participate in three CLDF chef’s dinner evenings. These were amazing culinary experiences but also gave me the opportunity to meet many successful and accomplished people from all walks of life who had opted to give something back as trustees or supporters of CLDF.
I stood down from my role at CLDF in 2016 when I moved to the US after 25 amazing years in Birmingham but have been able to watch its progress from a distance. It is incredible to realise that in the 40 years of the CLDF’s existence survival for children with biliary atresia has gone from 10% to more than 95%. Here’s to the future!