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Mike Hellier is Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Swindon, Wiltshire, England. He trained at Cambridge University and St Thomas' Hospital, London and specialized in gastroenterology at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, Northwick Park, and St Thomas' Hospital.
Dr Hellier's research was in the field of intestinal absorption, looking at amino acid and dipeptide absorption and their interaction with electrolytes and water. He continued his research in South India with Professor Selwyn Baker, studying the etiology and pathophysiology of tropical sprue. More recently his research has related to inflammatory bowel disease.
Along with two colleagues, Dr Hellier has set up the largest prospective IBD study in the UK and this has now been running for twenty years. His other main interest has been in gastroenterological training, and, in particular, endoscopy training.
Dr Hellier is President of the British Society of Gastroenterology and Chairman of the Endoscopy Section of the Society. He is Chairman of the Specialist Advisory Committee in Gastroenterology, the national training committee that advises the Joint Committee for Higher Medical Training to the Royal Colleges. He is a founder member of the Joint Advisory Group on endoscopy training and Chairman of the Clinical Services and Standards Committee to the British Society of Gastroenterology.
Dr Hellier is married to Jan, who has recently retired as a Palliative Care doctor. His eldest son, Simon, is also a doctor and involved in research into the genetics of hepatitis C and his younger son, Tim, is an interior designer.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- At the time I made the decision, gastroenterology as a speciality was in its infancy, and fibre-optic endoscopy was just arriving on the scene. I had always wanted to be a General Physician and felt that gastroenterology lent itself best to this aim. It was also possible to pursue most aspects of gastroenterology either in a major centre or in a District General Hospital, so it was a very versatile speciality
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- Mr John Garfield. John was a neurosurgeon in Southampton for whom I worked prior to MRCP. He was an inspiring and stimulating teacher who could make the dullest subjects exciting, and endlessly gave his time for teaching.
- Who was the research worker you most admired?
- Professor Selwyn Baker. Selwyn was the real all-rounder - great imagination, tremendous drive, very practical, quite capable of mending any bit of equipment that might fail, which was essential in South India, and extraordinarily resilient in the face of the most difficult circumstances
- Which research paper interested you the most?
- The 'The Metabolic Disorder in Hartnup Disease' in QJM 1960; 29: 407-29. Malcolm Milne was a remarkable man with a most original mind, and his work on Hartnup disease gave us the idea to use Cystinuria as a model in which to look at peptide absorption.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- That protein did not have to be broken down to free amino acids in order for absorption to take place, but could be absorbed in the form of dipeptides. This discovery had a major influence nutritionally with regard to the design of oral feeds.
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- To fail to ensure that I took sabbatical breaks midway through my career. After my year in India, I had always promised myself that I would take a break in my career by spending another year studying gastroenterology in a Third World situation. Unfortunately the medico-political climate in the UK made this very difficult.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- To run a marathon - but my battered joints will probably prevent me ever doing this.
- How do you relax?
- By being close to water - walking beside it, sailing on it, or scuba diving under it.
- What is your favorite sport?
- What is your best place in the world?
- The Nilgiri Hills, South India
- What is your favorite film?
- "The Full Monty".
- What car do you drive?
- A Volvo 850 T5 for work and an Austin Healey 3000 for play.
- What book are you reading at the moment?
- "Hunting Mr Heartbreak" by Jonathan Raban.