Stewart Cameron – funeral tribute

Stewart Cameron – funeral tribute

Stewart Cameron – funeral tribute


My name is John Feehally, I used to be a kidney doctor, and I am proud that Stewart considered me his friend.

Nephrology, kidney medicine, emerged with perfect timing for Stewart to discover it, fall in love with it, and make it his professional life’s work.

As  a bright young doctor, fêted with university prizes, freshly back from his Fulbright scholarship in New York, he was determined to be a researcher as well as a clinician, but where was he to focus his energies?

And just at that time people with  irreversible kidney failure (a uniformly fatal condition until then) became treatable; the possibility loomed of giving them even years of extra life through dialysis treatment or  a kidney transplant. But these new treatments were complex and demanding – both for patients and doctors– the work required practicality and passion, and could only be delivered successfully by those willing to commit their emotional and  intellectual energy unstintingly.     Stewart had found his metier,   and from the mid-1960s he set off to establish a dialysis and transplant unit at Guy’s.  

Soon joined by Chisholm Ogg, they built a unit which set  the standards, and became  well known far and wide.

Collaborative team work was the watchword. All were  partners in the kidney family – patients and staff alike. Nurses, technicians, dietitians and many others knew they were  respected members of the team and responded to the responsibility and autonomy they were being given. First names were the norm, far from the tradition of the time. Such team working was innovative and unique to nephrology at the time, now it is everywhere in medicine.

The work was all-consuming – their success meant patients requiring treatment for kidney failure  came flooding in.  They were even treating children as well as adults until Cyril Chantler joined them as a paediatric nephrologist in the early 1970s. Stewart told me just how exciting it was in those early days, every day brought a new challenge, a new opportunity  – so much to learn, so much to do.  They were giving it everything but there was a price. A hepatitis  epidemic swept through the Guy’s renal unit in 1969, and Stewart became for a time severely ill with hepatitis B.

But the Guy’s unit flourished and grew, many more joined the staff,  and soon the unit had an international reputation, receiving visitors from all over the world.

Developing the Guy’s unit would be a career high for many, but Stewart was just beginning.

He was always determined   that Guy’ s would be a place where   research flourished alongside clinical work.

He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the whole of kidney disease, but it was in the study of nephritis, immune-mediated kidney disease, he especially made his mark. Following in the tradition of Richard Bright, the 19th century Guy’s physician who was an early student of kidney disease, Stewart re-established the importance of longitudinal study of personally observed cases as the means to understand how  disease progresses.

He was quickly among the world leaders in  this field. He wrote fluently, and in the end his published output was formidable: huge numbers of research papers, books large and small.

And he lectured brilliantly. When Stewart went to the rostrum, he commanded your attention. Stewart became a ubiquitous presence at national and international meetings on nephritis. And if you saw his name was not on  the programme, your heart sank a little because you knew that without him the meeting would generate  less energy, less intellectual force, less joie de vivre.


Clinician, researcher, that would be a career high for most, but Stewart was still only just beginning.

Ideally suited he was soon drawn into leadership in the kidney world beyond Guy’s – nationally then internationally.

No one other than Stewart  has been President of every important European and global kidney society. In the early 1990s he even allowed himself to be president of both  the   Renal Association in the UK and the International Society of Nephrology at the same time – an insane workload for anyone less gifted or committed.

His international leadership was not just titular, he did not sit at home directing traffic, he  travelled  the world teaching in many different settings, and especially encouraging the emergence of   nephrology in low resource  countries.   With his gift for friendship and his unrelenting energy, he was a much-loved mentor to hundreds of nephrologists, many of whom  came from abroad to Guy’s and then returned to their own countries.

But it is more than the sum of all this work for which we remember Stewart.

It is for the way he bore all his gifts.  His complete lack of self-importance, despite his remarkable talents,  his enthusiasm for the work of others, his encouragement of those many he mentored whose names and personal circumstance he never forgot.

I for one – who never worked with him at Guys’ received extraordinary generosity of time and encouragement from Stewart. It  was enough for him that I loved nephrology too, and wanted to expend my modest gifts in the cause – he went  far ….. and beyond far to help me. Thus he became for me – as for so many others  – my mentor and then my hero. And to  my happy surprise in later years, he became my friend.

Any conversation with Stewart was a delight, a chance  to learn. He was an extraordinary polymath, he read widely and voraciously. He knew more than me about everything  – nephrology, the history of nephrology, but equally about Keats, and rock climbing, and Gaelic poetry,   and history, and wildlife , and…


Stewart bestrode the world of nephrology.   Once in a generation comes a Stewart, a doctor  whose natural gifts, intellect, energy, and  modesty  put them head and shoulders above us all.  Greatness borne so lightly is a wonderful thing.

Cyril Chantler  described him to me beautifully a couple of weeks ago –  ‘Stewart was the most curiously intelligent doctor I have ever known’,  Cyril told me: ‘We used to say at Guy’s if you wanted to know something about anything you  had to go the library……. or better still….. ask Stewart.’

It is hard just now to realise that we will never again be able to ‘ask Stewart’.

But we recall this wonderful doctor and fine man with love and thanks. We shall miss him very much.

Last Updated on September 4, 2023 by John Feehally