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Professor Brian George Richard Neville 1939-2016

It is with great sadness Young Epilepsy has learnt of the passing of renowned neurological expert, Professor Brian Neville. Professor Neville was 77 and passed away peacefully after a long-term illness.

Brian’s legacy is colossal and his work will continue to shape the field of neurology for generations to come. His legacy remains in the many paediatric neurologists, paediatricians, therapists, children and families around the world who will be eternally grateful for his insights. At the heart of all he did, he was an extremely caring man who always put the child and family at the centre of all activity. We, Young Epilepsy, are immensely proud to have counted him as one of our own and he will be greatly missed.

Carol Long, Chief Executive at Young Epilepsy, said:

Professor Brian Neville was a pioneer in paediatric neurology and will be remembered for his lifelong commitment to children and young people with epilepsy. His dedication to research and new forms of treating the condition has had a life changing impact for so many.

Professor Neville’s family and friends are very much in our thoughts at this sad time. He was one of one of the most incredible and influential persons in paediatric neurology. His contribution to the children’s neurological sector will influence lives for years to come. He will be much missed by all at Young Epilepsy.

Young Epilepsy would not be the organisation it is now if it hadn’t been for Brian’s vision in recognising the need for a progressive approach to supporting children and young people with epilepsy. We’re indebted to him and his legacy will continue to be apparent for generations to come.

Professor Helen Cross OBE, said:

Brian Neville was an inspirational visionary man. He firmly believed that there was much more we could do for children with neurological disease, and made it a mission to ensure this in many areas. He was passionate about the training of younger colleagues, and felt a broad training in many areas was key to good paediatric neurology practice. He also thought very much about the wider context of a child with neurological disease, not least the overall effect on the family. He recognised the value of a place such as Young Epilepsy, and embedded their ethos firmly in the practice of many of us. His legacy is the many paediatric neurologists, paediatricians, therapists, children and families around the world who will be eternally grateful for his insights.

Celebrating Professor Brian Neville’s life achievements

Louise Glover

As the first Chair of Paediatric Neurology in the UK, and subsequently the first Prince of Wales’s Chair of Childhood Epilepsy, Brian Neville made a significant contribution to the understanding and care of neurological disease in childhood around the world.

Brian qualified in medicine from Guys Hospital Medical School, and trained in neurology at Great Ormond Street as well as the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, UCLH. He was initially a consultant in paediatric neurology at Guys Hospital where he was Director of the Newcomen Centre, developing a firm interest in cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He long realised that research was key to moving forward in clinical practice, recognising the main questions that needed to be addressed arose from the patients themselves. His initial collaborations were with Kings College Hospital, However, in 1989 Brian was appointed to the first UK Chair of Paediatric Neurology at University College London, Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH). His vision was for a unit that encompassed all aspects of paediatric neurology, from acute to chronic illness, with research embedded in clinical practice. He developed both the clinical and academic units to one of the largest in Europe. He specifically developed neurodisability services, firmly believing in the model of multidisciplinary team working. He additionally witnessed what could be achieved by epilepsy surgery through his collaboration with Kings, but felt children required a specific type of service. He pioneered the use of newly available MRI for a predominantly non-invasive programme, and also recognised that the service had to be embedded in a complex epilepsy evaluation programme. The programme he started at Great Ormond Street Hospital is now one of the largest clinical units in the world. Recognising that children required continuation of services into adulthood, he also established links with the epilepsy programme at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, UCLH, and created one of the first transition clinics for teenagers with complex epilepsy.

Brian started working with Young Epilepsy in the 1980’s, as we were then St Piers, a school for children with epilepsy. He long recognised the potential of partnering with the NHS, and the possible reach of such expertise, if made available. Over the years he was key to the development of the organisation, initially as a charity, and subsequently as a medical and research resource. He campaigned and led fund raising for the creation of a chair in childhood epilepsy, establishing links with The Prince of Wales who gave his name to the chair, and a position for which he was the first incumbent, 2004-2007. He was a major driver for the creation of the medical and research centre in Lingfield, which now bears his name.

Brian’s work was at the heart of the many issues where the secondary effects of epilepsy can affect a young person. The fundamental basis to his vision for the chair was to greater understand the underlying mechanisms and secondary effects of the epilepsies and how intervention could improve outcomes. He also valued the relative contribution of different organisations in the research effort. It was at Young Epilepsy (then St Piers) that he led the pioneering work into the use of buccal midazolam as rescue medication for prolonged seizures, now integrated into NICE guidelines. He led further work into the understanding of the effects of infantile spasms, optimising intervention in Landau Kleffner syndrome, the epidemiology of status epilepticus, and the rate of neurocognitive and neurobehavioural abnormalities in children with epilepsy in schools. He also led on establishing a European network for the study of Alternating Hemiplegia that now continues as a wider international effort. During his career he published 3 books, 45 chapters and more than 270 peer-reviewed publications. He created links across the community, UCL GOS – Institute of Child Health, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Young Epilepsy and ultimately the UCLH Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery which would allow evaluation and intervention across a patient’s entire age range. He also valued the role of the parent support organisations and undertook an enormous amount of work over the years with Contact a Family. He acted as medical advisor to several condition-specific support groups, including as Executive Secretary of the Medical Education and Information Unit of the Spastics Society 1978-1992 (now Scope).

Brian long recognised the need to encourage and train junior colleagues in epilepsy and neurodisability research so the specialty could grow. As coordinator of postgraduate training for North London, UK and Europe, he was able to develop a training programme which allowed appropriate trainees (more than half at GOSH) to enrol for PhD’s and develop into the present generation of clinical academics. He wrote the training programmes for Paediatric Neurology for Europe and the UK with the integration of neurodisability and child psychiatry, and established a European syllabus for paediatric neurology. In all he supervised 15 higher degree (PhD or MD) students and many more visiting fellows from around the world. Brian was an outstanding mentor who always found the balance between getting the research project done and allowing his mentee to develop their own ideas and direction. This had the wonderful effect of giving breadth to both the research programmes and clinical practice. He also pursued collaborative work with colleagues in countries with limited resources. Notably links were established and longstanding with Kilifi, Kenya; Dhaka, Bangladesh and Chandigargh, India, enabling those countries to develop their own excellent paediatric neurology systems.

Brian was instrumental in the establishment of the British Paediatric Neurology Association serving on the council both as Secretary (1980-1983) and President (1986-1989) and Chair of the Training Subcommittee 1993-1999. Brian was one of the founding members of the European Paediatric Neurology Society and was subsequently elected to the board. He founded the European Academy of Childhood Disability, Chairman for 12 years and also the European Society for Movement Analysis in Children, Chairman for 10 years. He was on the editorial board of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology for 15 years (1977-1992) and negotiated its becoming the Journal of the BPNA. On retirement Brian was made an honorary member of the European Paediatric Neurology Society, awarded a Lifetime Achievement award from the ILAE UK chapter and an honorary doctorate from University of Gothenburg.

Brian’s legacy is colossal and his work will continue to shape the field of neurology for generations to come. His legacy remains in the many paediatric neurologists, paediatricians, therapists, children and families around the world who will be eternally grateful for his insights. At the heart of all he did, he was an extremely caring man who always put the child and family at the centre of all activity. We, Young Epilepsy, are immensely proud to have counted him as one of our own and he will be greatly missed.

Feedback from parents

Quote Icon My daughter is doing so much better just after being at St. Piers for a year. The improvement is exceptional. She still have her moments but they are to be expected and are outweighed by the positives. God bless all the staff who are so patient and dedicated to helping the students. Thank-you!.
Parent

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